El Negrito was a feared gangster whose name caused panic in the streets; however, the Venezuela crisis has made his criminal life quite difficult. Due to the lack of money around, robbing people has become almost pointless.
Everything from food to even bullets have grown too expensive. Bullets nowadays cost a dollar each. Every shot fired is money lost to the gang. A pistol is worth $800, and losing it is a grave mistake.
While the government of socialist President Nicolás Maduro has not kept track of crime rates, experts are noticing a sharp decline in criminal activity due to the hyperinflated state of the economy. What once endured as one of the violent nations on Earth has seen its homicide rates drastically lower to 20% within three years.
The inflation in the country has caused a great scarcity in food and has forced millions to find better opportunities in other countries. Among these are young men that the gangs usually recruit. Although this may appear to be the decline of homicide and crime rates in the country, the form crime took has differed.
There have been increased cases of theft and looting in some areas, while drug trafficking and illegal gold mining have become the best means for organized crime groups to thrive. More people are reminded to keep their jewelry at home and avoid bringing out their cellphones in the streets.
Kidnappings are frequent, and this was the main mode of business for El Negrito due to the higher earnings from ransoms. However, he and his gang are seeing dwindling numbers and bad times. Some have even decided to find honest work in countries that will not be as lax on crime.
As Robert Briceño, who heads the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, explains, the decline in homicides has to do with a basic economic principle: the scarcity of resources has decreased the supply of what is to be stolen.