Police director: Medellin in 'crisis'

March 26, 2013 at 5:37 PM

MEDELLIN, Colombia, March 26 (UPI) -- Medellin, Colombia's second-largest city, is in a "crisis" because of violent crime, the national police director says.

The homicide rate jumped almost 20 percent in the first two months of 2013, Colombia Reports said. Police did not release statistics on armed robbery to the website.

Jose Roberto Leon, the director of the national police, was ordered to take charge in the city earlier this month.

"This is a crisis," Leon told the El Tiempo newspaper Monday. "We must confront and fight these criminal organizations."

Leon denied reports that Los Urabenos, a paramilitary group based in the Uraba region, are taking over control of local gangs in Medellin from an organization descended from the enforcers of the late Pablo Escobar's drug cartel. He said Los Urabenos appear to be funding some of the local gangs but are not fully involved in the city.

The high crime rate is a sign that organized gangs like Escobar's have been decimated, Leon said. He said homicide rates were very low when Escobar and the Medellin Cartel had "hegemony" over the city's underworld.

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