Bogotá, Sept 7 (EFE). – Around 3,500 bikers from different backgrounds and professions, are collaborating with the police in security brigades to alleviate the growing insecurity and monitor “organized crime” in Bogotá in an initiative that has caused controversy.
Volunteers, without fixed shifts, these motorcyclists use their free time to go into the city’s most dangerous areas to report crimes and other situations.
Regardless of what they are doing, these “volunteers” remain attentive to reports from the police or other support networks to activate themselves and pursue robberies, assaults, and crimes at any time of day.
Thanks to the GPS in the vehicles, when the victims report the theft, the motorcyclists, in addition to notifying the police, they turn on their own siren and wear bulletproof vests purchased by themselves, to then pursue the thief at an excessive speed.
However, this task can only be carried out by the most experienced motorists, as most of them only serve the purpose of informing.
“Specific localities, like Ciudad Bolívar, Usme, or Kennedy, are the ones prioritized because there are more thefts,” explained to EFE the director of Coexistence and Social Dialogue of the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá, Carolina Orozco, who makes it clear that the motorists cannot intervene or use force because that is a function of the police.
CITIZENS WARN THEM BEFOREHAND Bogota citizens, aware of the lack of police officers in the capital, decide to warn the motorcyclists first, who react more quickly, according to them.
“The police don’t act as quickly. It happened to me when I was protecting a woman from an attacker who wanted to hit us with a knife. I spent an hour waiting for the police. Some localities present more situations than others, and where the area is calm, they arrive more quickly. If there are several fights simultaneously, they have to prioritize other things,” confirmed EFE, the head of the Bogotá bikers’ network, who goes by the nickname Luna and prefers to hide her identity.
On the other hand, if a stolen motorcycle leaves Bogota and arrives in a nearby city, the authorities cannot continue tracking it outside the capital due to jurisdictional issues, something the bikers can do. “We have been tracking as far as Villavicencio or the department of Tolima to recover motorcycles,” Luna confirmed.
In addition, a women’s network provides support and strategies such as “showing up in dark places late at night when the chances of a woman being abused increase,” said Orozco.
EXISTENCE OF OTHER SUPPORT NETWORKS IN COLOMBIA
However, the creation of this new security network, which resembles an “army,” has been criticized for the fact that civilians are taking on surveillance and security tasks that should be done by the state, which in previous initiatives have ended very violently.
For example, in 1994, President César Gaviria created the Convivir, a set of rural surveillance cooperatives, whose function was to fight the insurgency of guerrillas such as the FARC.
After the Constitutional Court limited their use of force in 1997, many of the Convivir leaders ended up in the now-defunct United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), Colombia’s largest paramilitary group and the one with the most homicides attributed to it during the conflict, according to the Truth Commission.
However, experts say that, for the moment, there is no sign that these brigades could turn into something similar.
“At that time, there was no control by the authorities over this group,” Pares Foundation analyst Isaac Morales told EFE, while this network of bikers is in full collaboration with the Bogota police.
Similarly, other citizen groups, such as “cab driver networks” or security fronts, are people who keep the police informed about security in their neighborhoods. EFE