Kidnappings in Venezuela have risen 170% in 2016 according to a new report based on citizen perceptions, highlighting the inability of the state to provide security as economic and political crises continue to engulf the nation.
The study, published by the Institute of Criminal Science and Criminology at the University of Santa Maria in Caracas, says the number of kidnapping cases has quintupled over the past 150 days, El Nacional reported. However, the statistics in the report were based on anecdotal evidence and perceptions, as there are no official statistics and kidnapping is hugely underreported. The study estimated that only 8 percent of cases are reported to the police. According to the report, the overwhelming majority of kidnappings are brief, with 94 percent concluding within 24 hours, and most take place at times and on days of reduced police activity. The report also noted that violence and brutality during kidnappings has increased, and stories of sexual abuse, physical torture, and executions have proliferated. State security forces are woefully underprepared to deal with the wave of kidnappings, the institute states. Venezuela‘s investigative police, the CICPC, only has 200 staff nationwide who have to deal with roughly seven cases a day, each requiring a minimum of 15 officers to work.
The lack of official government statistics and the issue of underreporting means it is difficult to accurately map kidnapping trends in Venezuela, making perceptual and anecdotal evidence such as that collected in this new report a valuable if flawed source of information.
Despite this lack of solid data, the report adds to a weight of evidence that there has been an uptick in kidnapping in recent years. InSight Crime field research in Caracas in 2015 revealed that in particular “express” kidnappings — where small immediate ransoms are demanded, often by forcing the victim to withdraw money from their bank account — are becoming ever more common. Sources in Caracas estimated that forty express kidnappings take place in the city every week, and that many involve corrupt members of the police. As Venezuela‘s economic and political crisis deepens, there is little sign of the state taking decisive action against kidnapping or other crimes that indicate deteriorating security. Currently, President Nicolas Maduro is occupied fighting off the prospect of a recall referendum, and facing up to his administration’s security failures is likely way down on the government’s agenda.