Homicide scene in Bogota

So far in 2012 Colombia has registered a seven percent decrease in homicides compared to last year, continuing the downward trend in violence the country has experienced in the last decade.

By December 2, Colombia’s National Police had recorded 13,209 homicides throughout the country, a drop of 921 compared to the same period in 2011, according to El Tiempo. If it continues at this rate, the country will register around 14,400 murders this year compared to 14,746 in 2011.

The country's two largest cities, Bogota and Medellin, have both seen homicide rates drop significantly, with Bogota registering 17 percent fewer murders during the first 11 months of this year, compared to the same period in 2011. Medellin recorded 321 fewer homicides for this period in 2012 compared to 2011, when the city saw close to 1,700 homicides in total.

The worst violence was in Valle del Cauca province on the Pacific coast, which accounted for some 23 percent of all murders in Colombia, according to police figures.

InSight Crime Analysis

In 2002 Colombia had a homicide rate of 70.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, more than double last year's rate of 31.4 per 100,000. If there is no surge of violence in December, then 2012 should finish with a homicide rate of a little over 30 per 100,000.

One factor likely contributing to Bogota's falling murders is the ban on carrying guns in public places, which was instituted in February and is set to run until the end of January 2013. The capital's homicide rate reached a 27-year low in September, which Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro has credited to the gun ban. Prior to the ban coming into effect, Petro's chief of staff stated that some 60 percent of murders in the capital involved guns.

Medellin, where homicides have also fallen, installed a ban on firearms in January. It is due to run for a year. 

It is unsurprising that Valle de Cauca is now officially Colombia's most violent region, where criminal cartel the Urabeños are attempting to seize the territory from rival group the Rastrojos.  The Rastrojos have been severely weakened this year with the surrender or arrest of their three top leaders, and there have been signs that the group is beginning to splinter off into smaller factions. The Urabeños, for their part, have tried to take advantage of this scenario.

Colombia has made enormous strides over the last decade in bringing its homicide levels down significantly. However, it appears that pockets of the country will continue to be heavily hit by violence as rival criminal groups and the fragments of drug cartels battle for control of the underworld.