Adding to the families’ turmoil was a warning from a police officer “with connections” that they “would be killed as well” if they denounced those responsible, Asprilla said.
But the city government denies any such warning came from police. Vice Mayor Luis Fernando Suarez told The Miami Herald he personally spoke to “one of the grandmothers, one of the aunts and one of the mothers” and no direct threat had been made.
But Asprilla’s account diverges in a number of ways from that of the government.
While Suarez said the families do not want to leave the neighborhood, Asprilla claims she is desperate to escape but no offer of relocation has been made. Her remaining children, she said, are too scared to leave the house. The dead boys’ last names are not being used to protect their siblings.
Help might eventually arrive for the grieving families, but city services are being overrun by the battle against criminal organizations. While police have caught high-profile leaders, there are always others ready to take their places and violence spikes as succession wars erupt.
Accusations of police corruption in troubled districts such as Comuna 13 also abound.
“We are talking about a tiny minority,” says Gen. Jose Mendoza, commander of the Metropolitan Police. “But we are working hard to defeat it. This is part of the new approach we are taking.”
It involves deploying teams that specialize in combating specific criminal activities such as extortion, kidnapping, and micro-trafficking, as well as targeting high- profile individuals.
But Quijano and Arcila both point out that simply increasing security forces isn’t the answer to quelling violence in Comuna13 because it is already one of the most militarized parts of the country.
Corruption occurs, they said, because low-level officers are underpaid and simply increasing their numbers can exacerbate the problem.
The restructuring has already begun to yield results, according to Suarez. There were year-over-year declines in homicides in all but three of 16 districts between 2011 and 2012, including a 28 percent reduction in Comuna 13.
Special correspondent Bruno Madrid contributed to this story.