El Salvador’s murder rate has dropped from an average of 23 in January to 11 in May, according to National Civil Police Director Howard Coto, who revealed the data in a press conference last week.
After years of deadly violence, the country’ police force claimed their crackdown on crime gangs is working, while gang leaders say they have ordered their members to stop the killing in an attempt to dissuade the government from enforcing extraordinary measures.
Over the past year, the Central American country has enforced a wide variety of measures to crackdown on criminal gangs, most of which are reportedly aided by Mexican drug lords. Imprisoning gang leaders in isolated cells and preventing them from staying in touch with gang members is one of the measures.
More importantly, the police are trying to put an end to gang culture in the country. They are erasing gang graffiti from the streets and treating gang violence as terrorism. These measures came after the gangs killed dozens of police officers and international organizations began ranking the country as one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
Today, most of the gang leaders are behind bars and they have been barred from receiving visitors, with police blocking cell phone signals inside prisons.
Police Chief Howard Cotto stated that the crime rate could not have gone down had citizens not tipped them off about gang members. The government has also deployed soldiers onto streets to back up the police.
Reports say there are about 70,000 gangsters in El Salvador and more than 13,000 of them are behind bars. According to InsightCrime, some gang members are threatening to step up violence if the government persists with its hard line.
But an AFP report quoting Jannet Aguilar, director of the Public Opinion Institute of the University of Central America, stated that the gangs are being neutralized and gangsters are disappearing from the communities they lived in.