The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.
Honduras suffers from high levels of crime and violence nationwide. While the Government of Honduras (GOH) has made the fight against insecurity a top priority, it lacks sufficient capacity and resources to properly prevent, respond to, investigate, and prosecute the high levels of crime across the country. As a result, most homicide cases have no resolution and criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras. Since 2010, Honduras has had one of the highest murder rates in the world. However, official statistics from the Honduran Observatory on National Violence show Honduras’s homicide rate decreased to 42.8 per 100,000 in 2017, a 50 percent reduction from its peak of 86.5 per 100,000 in 2011. This represents a further 25 percent decrease from 2016. Even with the decrease in homicides, Honduras remains in the midst of a violence epidemic with enormous social and economic consequences, including economic and physical insecurity serving as push factors for migration to the United States. Honduras is a transit country for drugs, primarily cocaine, destined for the United States.
INL law enforcement, counternarcotics, and rule of law programs, in partnership with Honduran government institutions and non-governmental organizations, help build the institutional capacity of the GOH to combat threats within Honduras before they spread north to the United States, including drug trafficking and illegal migration. These programs are consistent with security and governance priorities of the U.S. Strategy for Central America and the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), and complement efforts under the Central American governments’ Alliance for Prosperity.
Counternarcotics, Border Security, and Combating Organized Crime – INL works with U.S. interagency and international partners to provide training, equipment, and mentorship/advisory support to build the institutional capacity of Honduras’s law enforcement entities. The main objectives are to: 1) identify, prevent, and combat national and transnational crime; 2) promote a professional, accountable, and modern police force; 3) work across the justice sector to share and act upon intelligence and leads; and 4) stop illicit drug flows.
These task forces and units produce tangible results because of the close mentoring and technical support they receive. For example, in 2018 Honduras yielded 39 criminal convictions with prison sentences ranging from 15 to 42 years and prevented over $4 million in ransom payments. During the same time period, Honduran law enforcement arrested 80 arrested individuals for a variety of crimes, including human smuggling and illegal drug possession, rescued 81 unaccompanied children, identified 464 irregular migrants, and seized $20,586 in bulk currency.
Intelligence-led Community Policing – INL’s Model Police Precinct (MPP) program emphasizes community engagement and crime prevention using intelligence gathering, targeted investigations, hot spot policing, and community involvement. The primary goal is to achieve a significant reduction in violent crimes, particularly homicides, and to reduce the influence of organized gangs such as MS-13 and Barrio 18 in communities. To promote intelligence-led policing, INL supports the nationwide expansion of the Honduran National Automated Case Management Information System (NACMIS) and other critical communication networks for the Honduran National Police. During 2018, more than 57,500 arrests were made using NACMIS information. INL supported the expansion of NACMIS to 507 terminals located throughout the country including three border crossings. NACMIS is now the primary record management information system supporting Honduras National Police (HNP) operations nationwide.
Place-based Strategy (PBS) for Violence Prevention – The PBS, implemented by INL in collaboration with USAID, represents a balanced and integrated three level prevention program with law enforcement interventions operating under the overarching goal of reducing homicide. The program maximizes its effects by focusing efforts in target populations. Pilot communities in San Pedro Sula are Satelite, Rivera Hernandez, and Chamelecon. Through interagency collaboration, the PBS has already produced measurable results in the security of some of its targeted communities. Rivera Hernandez and Satelite saw a 64 percent decrease in homicides between 2014 and 2017, and Chamelecon saw a reduction of 85 percent during the same timeframe. Those reductions are even more significant when compared to the national average of 40 percent reduction between 2014 and 2017.
Police Professionalization and Education – INL supports the professionalization of the Honduran National Police (HNP) and other justice operators through continuing education, and U.S. assistance is having an immediate impact on police training. Since the inception of the INL-supported Criminal Investigation School (EIC) in May 2011, it has graduated 15,175 participants from the HNP and other justice sector operators and is expected to train an additional 3,000 participants by the end of 2019. The state-of-art EIC facility serves as the hub for continuing education for the HNP and is a regional training facility for the Northern Triangle for international training on criminal investigations and specialized police operations, building cross-border collaboration. During 2018, INL-supported Colombian National Police (CNP) advisors delivered 28 courses to 844 participants at the EIC.
Structural Police Reform – INL provides technical and advisory support to the Honduran Ministry of Security to build a transparent government ministry capable of providing citizens with effective and efficient security and justice services. As part of this effort, the Honduran government is implementing a well-defined road map to overhaul and professionalize the HNP. Since April 2016, the Special Commission for the Purging and Restructuring of the Honduran National Police (Purge Commission) has recommended the dismissal or provisional suspension of just over 6,000 corrupt, criminal, or otherwise ineffective police officers. The HNP plans to build a force of 26,000 officers by 2022, (its current force numbers approximately 17,500). During the next three years, the Purge Commission will continue its oversight of the HNP, support the implementation of the Organic Police Law and Police Career law, and build the capacity of the burgeoning Directorate of Police Disciplinary Affairs (DIDADPOL) to continue the Purge Commission’s watchdog duties after the year 2022. As new personnel are added to key areas, INL, through CNP and other Subject Matter Expert advisors, provides professional advice and mentoring to 11 units within the HNP, including investigations, strategic communications, intelligence, antinarcotics, strategic planning, forensics, and more.
Violence Prevention and Youth Engagement – Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) is a school-based gang and violence prevention program for 4th through 9th graders, in which law enforcement officers instill critical decision-making and leadership skills. Since 2012, the G.R.E.A.T. program has reached more than 346,215 youth and will expand to 110,000 additional youth by the end of 2019.
Justice Sector Reform – With INL support, the Public Ministry created and organized an effective investigatory unit, which has seized evidence relevant to a number of significant cases against corrupt public officials. INL support also facilitated the development of the Honduras Office for the Administration of Seized and Forfeited Assets, which has become a model for the region. In 2017, INL began a three year effort to assist the Public Ministry’s Forensic Medicine division achieve accreditation for critical disciplines, and deepen expertise and capacity within the institution to enable the use of forensic evidence in criminal prosecutions. In early 2019, INL began an extensive four-year training program for prosecutors to expand understanding and proficiency of the accusatorial elements within the Honduras legal system. This capacity-building program is the first in over a decade for the Public Ministry’s cadre of prosecutors.