Driving in the Day or in the Night?

manejo nocturnoThe authorities and the specialists in matters of road safety consider that the decision with regards to driving at night is wrong, not only because of the regular risks of driving through freeways that are generally not well fitted for traffic or without the adequate lightning but also, because of the rise of the criminal activities availed by the darkness.

Driving in the broad daylight gives the driver ample visual scope, therefore having greater capacity to maneuver whenever a sudden situation occurs on the road.

On the other hand, the delinquents seize the hours and places where there is no police surveillance. In reality, the presence of authorities in the freeways at night is reduced to a third of the total contingent due to the distribution of labor hours, as well as other restrictions that have been imposed.

IT SEEMS LIKE AN ACCIDENT!

An assessment performed by the authorities of Zulia, Lara, Falcón, Carabobo, Miranda, Bolívar and Vargas allowed the identification of the modus operandi currently in use by the delinquency against people driving the roads. Here are a few of them:

Tacks (also known as “Miguelitos”) and other obstacles

On the road from Lara to Falcón, known as Troncal 4, and in the road to the East (Troncal 9), the Panamericana and the coast (Vargas), the delinquents put various obstacles in the areas without lightning in order to cause accidents or sudden stops to the vehicles and public transport so they can commit robbery on them. Likewise, they use devices they created, with nails or parts of welded dowels (known as “miguelitos”, in Spanish), that are used to pinch the rubber in the vehicles. Another modus operandi is to put stones painted in black on the road.

Fake control spots

The existence of fake control spots has been reported in both Zulia and Lara states, with delinquents disguising themselves as police officers and forcing travelers to stop. It is important to highlight that he fake control spots do not comply with the standards applied by the National Government in the year 2006.

Hitchhiker’s theft (asking for a ride)

Both in the road to Tucacas and the road to Henri Pittier’s National Park, some of the hitchhikers asking for a ride are accompanied by women. When a vehicle passes by a low-surveillance spot, the driver is robbed.

Delinquents passing as passengers

On the roads at the south of Bolívar state, Paraguaipoa, Tucacas and the exits from Caracas toward the East, the delinquents mixing with the passengers in the buses is a very common modus operandi. They also get on the units at unauthorized bus stops in order to steal both the passengers and the driver.

Wrongly parked

The use of lonely sightseeing spots in the road to the Vargas coast, as well as travelers stops or sides of the roads in the Troncal 10 (Bolívar state), turn drivers and travelers into easy prey for the criminals.

Biking hounds

Cases on the highway to the East (between Guatire and Caucagua), regarding travelers, both in bikes and cars, that have been victims of theft by packs of armed bikers that left them without their vehicles, have been recently reported. They surrounded the victims in order to force them to stop.

WORD OF ADVICE

If you decide to travel at night, do it in groups and check your vehicle before departure. Make sure you take lanterns and a first aid kid with you.

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Condominium at the Expense of Crime

CCTVVenezuela is a country in which their citizens must invest in personal safety especially in Caracas, a city in which an average 14 kidnappings a week and 15 robberies and 8 murders a day are committed as reported off the record by the Body of Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations (CICPC, in Spanish).

Electric fences, especial gates for garages, bars for houses and buildings, security cameras, vigilance services, coded keys, emergency response services, life insurances, insurance against car theft, special devices and armor for vehicles are just a small part of a larger list of security expenses that reduce the availability of money and the possibilities to spend it on health, travel or leisure for the Venezuelan.

In a building where 150 families live there may require an average 60 thousand Bolivars monthly for vigilance expenses and maybe, some 10 percent of such amount for maintenance and repair of security devices, electric lock systems and other equipment.

Therefore, it is very important at the time of investing money, to have a plan or program that will harmonize the budget availability with the existing priorities. It is convenient to base on a risk assessment study prepared by a certified specialist, who shall help with the implementation plan according to your reach. Careful attention must be given to the selection of the equipment and devices for electronic safety.

In general, you must use renowned brands in terms of quality and reliability considering both the high initial economic impact and the mid-term compensation due to their durability and low failure frequency.

A risk assessment study shall highlight what are the areas of vulnerability in your house or building, and shall provide suggestions on how to solve them. A vendor or supplier of security systems that does not rely on a previous study will offer you everything that is at hand in terms of making a sale, which might eventually end in a waste of your money.

Be alert, assess your surroundings and foresee your responses

AlertaThe traditional concept of security was associated to reaction when facing a crime or maintaining the order however, in time, it has been necessary to go from reaction to prevention by acting over the causes of crime and not only, over its elements. As it has been demonstrated, the matters of security cannot be reduced only to criminality issues. “It is about something more complex that is related to issues of sanity, the environment, urbanism and education. It is the consequence of growing inequalities in the access to the resources”, explains Maria del Carmen Llanos, psychotherapist and organizational behavior consultant specialized in citizen security.

Understanding the process

The decision not to become a victim is a “responsibility” of each individual as the best defense will be “self-protection.” We must be aware of our surroundings, be on alert and use our common sense. The criminal will always choose the victim that will provide the best chance for a successful attack, acting over confidently, and using both physical and verbal violence. The delinquent will use the surprise factor, carry a gun, take some drugs and will generally be with company. There must be an observational and analyzing process as this will help him / her identify the environmental and architectural elements that will create the conditions for committing criminal acts.

At home and with the family

Keep a telephone directory for emergencies within reach. Do not give information about your home or office without careful consideration. Keep your neighbors contacts within reach and tell your family about it so they can contact you in case of an emergency. Family members should be taught how to deal with strangers that have no proper identification. Do not give confidential information regarding travel or business in the presence of strangers. Make sure that all the doors, windows and gates are locked before leaving your house. If you go out, leave the lights on and the phone unplugged. Do not leave your mail in the mailbox for long periods of time and do not leave a message on your answering machine telling the callers that you will be out. Teach your children how to call the police if unknown people or marauders surround the house, or attempt to break and enter such place.

In the street

Walk aware of everything that goes on around you (360º attention). It is essential that you analyze the behavior of any suspicious individual nearby. When noticing a strange situation, walk away from it or change directions.

The delinquents are enemies of distances because they need to “close spaces” in order to attack. Keep yourself at least 20m from any suspect. Remember: “the criminal will need to come close enough to attack you.”

In the vehicle

Do not put stickers that may show you as user of a specific brand. Also, avoid putting stickers that may give hints about the number of members in your family, or which school or club you frequently visit with your children. Drive with the windows closed and locks on. If you notice any suspect, do not slow down or stop, go to the nearest police station or to a place with a lot of people. Do not use any accessories that may call the attention of delinquents. Smartphones tend to be an easy target and even wedding bands because of the gold they may represent in terms of money.

In a parking lot

Whether it is the mall or the supermarket, do not leave your car in the street. Inside the parking lot, make sure the car is locked and the alarms are activated. Do not leave any valuables inside. If someone is surrounding your car, get help from the security staff. Avoid lonely and dark places.

Personal and Family Security

FamiliaThe news about violent crimes in the main cities of the nation, are usually in the minds of Venezuelan residents. The authority’s ability to stop this crime wave is quite questionable, and most people feel highly exposed and at risk in the concrete jungle where predators threaten to attack anytime, anywhere. The crime rate is outrageous for both locals and visitors, and there doesn’t seem to be any possible short term improvement. But, it’s worth wondering: Are we doing everything we can to avoid becoming victims of a criminal attack? Do we know what to do? How to act when facing an attacker to try and mitigate the damages? If we can’t count on an efficient response from the authorities, then it’s necessary for us to generate individual and collective active and passive measures to protect our personal integrities.

Looking to contribute with that purpose, in this and upcoming issues we will touch on personal and family safety issues, however, we must warn you that our suggestions are not the only recipes, and it will be each person’s judgment, experience and personal knowledge, properly combined with a good dose of serenity, what will ultimately generate efficient results to overcome the tensions of being victims of a criminal action.

Protect your family: prepare a family security plan

Our home is our sanctuary, the center of our personal universe, a “controlled environment” we constantly try to strengthen with active and passive security measures to protect our loved ones. But, once out of the house, they are no longer under our protective cloak, becoming exposed, and then it is luck and whatever knowledge they may have about personal security what will allow them to foresee unsafe situations in order to avoid becoming victims of criminal attacks. To help protect our family in this context, the best defense is to make them aware of the dangers they are exposed to, so they can anticipate themselves to any potential danger in order to plan their actions for whenever they may need them.

We recommend having a family meeting to talk about the most frequent crimes that take place in our cities, which we are exposed to: armed robbery, kidnapping, armed burglary and extortion. It is necessary to draw a security plan using the “WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF…” technique.

We know this is an unpleasant topic to discuss, but it is necessary to be clear about it in order to know what to do in a given opportunity. For instance, families can establish strategies and courses of action regarding what to do and say in case one of their members become the victim of an Express or Long-term kidnapping, who they should call first, what to say and not to say to the criminals, how to behave in front of the kidnappers, what attitude to assume, etc. It is also very important to develop an argumentative script to be consistent when the time comes in order to avoid ambiguities during the negotiation process, since a single slip could aggravate the situation. It is also recommended to know what to do in case of an extorting or threatening call, what to do to get “unhooked” from the extorter, and what precautions to take.

But, what do we need a tentative plan for? When we don’t have a plan and an attack takes place, we leave the resolution of every problem in the hands of our instinct and, what if we have the wrong reaction or our actions are inappropriate? The answer to this question is in the countless number of cases in which people have lost their lives due to inconvenient reactions in front of criminals who have no respect for human life or are simply so nervous they can’t control their reactions either. Having a plan, as simple as it may be, will give us confidence, will allow us to assess the situation and choose the best option when the times comes. But in order for the plan to work, it needs to be rehearsed, and that’s how families can turn such a delicate topic into an interesting activity.

It’s worth adding that a little training in personal security will always be very convenient, especially to add the knowledge of prevention and internalize it as a daily practice until it becomes a habit.

To develop a family security plan it is also convenient to consider the household members’ routines, the areas they frequent, the incidence of crime in such areas, and make them aware that crimes are not random, but somehow provoked by ourselves when we are unaware in unsafe environments, thus inviting criminals to attack; it is necessary to emphasize that before engaging, criminals make a cost/benefit analysis of attacking, weighing up their risks and their possible rewards, and they usually do not take risks against potential victims who look aware. Likewise, it is important to warn our loved ones who’ve developed some kind of skill in terms of personal defense that they shouldn’t risk confronting criminals like in the movies, since in real life, things rarely turn out the same, and there are countless cases of deaths due to resistance.

The planning process includes all the preventive measures to be taken in order to avoid becoming victims, so it is important to teach our loved ones how to detect whether they’re being followed and stimulate and sharpen their observation skills as well as orienting them about the precautions to be taken in parking lots -such as not parking next to cars with people inside- what to do if they see subjects with suspicious behaviors before parking or when walking back to their vehicles. When returning home, you should not try to enter if you see strangers in the driveway or building gates, take into account that it is from these places where most Express kidnappings occur. Agree upon communication protocols in imminent danger situations, for instance, if being followed, call the mobile of the family member who will surely pick up the phone, the person we’ve agreed to call to inform of our situation, where we are and to whom we will describe whoever’s allegedly following us (vehicle make and model, color, license, subjects’ descriptions, etc.).

Finally, it is necessary to insist that in order to protect our families, the best defense is to make them aware of all the risks they are exposed to, so to allow them to anticipate potential dangers and plan their actions for when it’s necessary.

Firearms: Safety or Risk?

armasIt is a fact that one of the major causes of violence in Venezuela is related with the use and circulation of firearms and ammunition. For this reason, G4S Venezuela presents in this number, an issue that has caused controversy in other countries, and in Venezuela, has attracted interest from the people and public opinion on the idea of ​​producing a disarmament law to help reduce the rate of crimes caused by guns.

According to the view of some specialists, the hypothesis of having a firearm as a mechanism of protection is totally wrong because the gun acts in two ways when facing risk: first, as a desired object itself; for example: carrying a gun may be attractive to initiate a criminal assault or an attempted robbery of the gun. Second, there is a general theory that in the presence of firearms, there is a higher probability to produce violent behavior in the opposing party.

But other experts insist that the more guns there are in the hands of honest citizens of a community, it makes them safer and also, the weapons would be a powerful tool for self-defense against criminals.

In a study conducted by the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP) in 2009, entitled “Disarming Violence”, it showed that in El Salvador (a country with one of the highest rates of homicides with firearms), the weapons were seen by a large segment of the population as the right tool for defense. Just over 40% of the population stated their wish to have firearms for defense and protection purposes.

However, this study concluded that the danger of using a weapon to try to confront an armed robbery is very high. According to the investigation, people who tried to use a firearm to defend themselves from an assault or armed robbery were killed in a ratio of 48 times higher than those who did not attempt it. In 65% of the cases, the victim was injured or killed when weapons were used for self-defense.

The proliferation of firearms within the population along with its treatment and control, are a constant threat at an international level. It is estimated that 75% of the weapons in the world, are out of the hands of the state. This fact directly impacts the rule of law, challenges public peace and creates instability and uncertainty in the population.

The uncontrolled arms trade and illegal possession in the hands of citizens, not only has to do with the groups that are responsible for their illegal trade, but also, in some cases, there´s also unlawful trespassing between the authorities (police and military) and the population. In fact, the diversion of arms from private and public sectors is one of the most important options that criminals and other groups have to arm themselves.

In Latin America, the numbers of homicides by firearms make the region one of the most dangerous and where more people die from firearms without being associated with armed conflicts. Out of the thirteen cities with higher rates of homicides of this kind in the world, ten of them are in Latin America and the Caribbean, which epitomizes the existence of a high flow of arms and a lack of an effective control.

Venezuela has about 4 million illegal firearms in the hands of the civilian population of the country and the deaths caused by firearms, accounted for 85% of homicides in 2011, totaling more than 16,000.

Due to this situation, the Presidential Commission for the Control of Firearms, Ammunition and Disarmament has been created. This group has the mission of designing and implementing a comprehensive public policy for the processes of execution, control, regulation and disarmament that guarantees the buildup of a peace culture and the recovery of spaces for peaceful coexistence.