Drop in homicide rate continues
The recent reduction in homicide rates in El Salvador has continued through the end of February. Public security forces reported the statistics yesterday:
National police Commissioner Howard Cotto said Wednesday that 237 killings were recorded in February. Added to 256 in January, that's 493 for the first two months. Last year El Salvador saw 1,404 homicides during the same period.
Cotto attributed the decline to a government crackdown and legislation giving authorities extraordinary powers to fight gangs, such as blocking cellphone communications in prisons and isolating jailed leaders in maximum-security conditions.According to Cotto, 137 of the country's 262 municipalities have had zero homicides so far during 2017. In contrast, during the first two months of 2016, only 24 municipalities had gone without a murder. February 2017 had the lowest level of homicides for a February since 2005, with the exception of February 2013 at the height of the so-called "tregua" or gang truce.
Killing of supposed gang members by the public security forces has not seen a similar decline In the first two months of the year, there were 111 armed confrontations between the police and army and persons presumed to be gang members. In those confrontations, 102 people were killed by security forces and only 69 individuals arrested.