In Venezuela not all news is bad news

In Venezuela not all news is bad news
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Let’s face it. When my native country of Venezuela is mentioned in the news, it usually isn’t good. It’s usually talk of out of control inflation, inadequate access to affordable health care and a homicide rate that causes paralysis.

Without a doubt, security is one of the most pressing topics in regard to Venezuela.

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According to a new poll on citizen security in 135 countries, Venezuelans are the least likely people in the world to feel safe walking alone at night.

 

The Gallup 2017 Global Law and Order Index found that just 12 percent of Venezuelans felt safe walking around after sundown and only 14 percent expressed confidence in their police.

However, in the eastern side of Caracas, in the municipality of Sucre, lives a 46-year-old former mayor, Carlos Ocariz, who has been able to reduce crime in his neighborhood, while in the rest of the country crime continues to rise.

For a country that is constantly being shown as the worst country for crime, it’s an interesting case study that drew me to learn more about Sucre, Ocariz’s tenure as mayor, and what he was able to accomplish during his eight years in power.

What originally drew me to the case of Ocariz was that his performance as mayor awarded him “The Top Mayorship” in Latin America and got him the fourth best spot as mayor in the world by The City Mayors Foundation Awards in 2014.

The World Mayor Prize is awarded every two years to mayors who have made outstanding contributions to their communities and have developed a vision for urban living and working that is relevant to towns and cities across the world.

As mayor during two terms, 2008-2013 and 2013-2017, Ocariz was responsible for overseeing 6000 government personnel, including, policemen, firefighters and government bureaucrats.

In terms of security, under his leadership his team was able to achieve an impressive reduction of 57 percent of homicides within their municipality over a 9 year period, from February 2008 until February of 2017.

How did they get it done?

First, the mayor’s team was able to identify the most dangerous parts of the municipality and prioritize those parts as “hot zones.” Police troopers were required to visit those zones at least four times per day, staying at least 15 minutes per stop. In order to ensure unpredictability, stops were randomized on a daily basis.

According to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, there were at least 27,875 victims of homicide in the country, making the homicide rate in Venezuela one of the highest in the world, at 90 killings per 100,000 citizens.

Second, the mayor’s office was able to successfully create points of entry and exit in important parts of the municipality in order to ensure control, security and reduce attempts of kidnappings throughout the city, another big problem present in Venezuela.

Aside from reducing homicides in the municipality of Sucre, Ocariz’s team was also able to conduct more than 1,208 apprehensions, and more than 2,500 operations to reduce violence during his tenure. In country where the government goes out of their way to deplete and block funding from opposition leaders, this is a big deal.

At the end of the day, it goes to show that although there are a lot of improvements to be made within the country, there are examples such as those of Sucre that show signs of hope and perhaps a model to follow for a country that continues to be plagued by so much insecurity.

José Aristimuño is the CEO of NOW Strategies, former deputy national press secretary of the Democratic Party and former director of Hispanic Media for Governor O’Malley’s presidential campaign.