A reduction of violence in El Salvador

342.- comando-elite-1-e1461189843981The “Territorial Control Plan” is, according to the Salvadoran government, responsible for the country’s progression from being one of the most violent countries in the world to, in January 2020, recording its lowest number of homicides since the Civil War.

The country’s President, Nayib Bukele, is confident his plan will get the financial green light as the only way to ensure the numbers continue to decrease. Many analysts, however, say the historic reduction in violence is unlikely to be the result of a security strategy that, in their opinion, offers nothing new beyond the strategies put forward by previous governments.

Despite this, the official figures clearly indicate a significant decrease in the number of homicides in El Salvador, where the rate per 100,000 inhabitants fell from 51 in 2018 to 35.8 in 2019. And the downward trend has been even more pronounced since President Bukele took office in June 2019 and announced his plan to improve the country’s security. Since July, the monthly homicide rate has remained below the 200 mark. A record low was recorded in January with 119 homicides and a daily average of 3.8, – 60% less than in January 2018 -.

Several analysts attribute the reduction in violence to factors unrelated to government policy. They believe it’s more likely the gangs have forged a pact to stop the killings in order to avoid confrontations with security forces, leaving them free to maintain control of their territories and continue to engage in extortion. Other researchers think the reduction in homicides is a mirage; the result of a gang-initiated goodwill gesture towards the new Executive. This tactic, employed by gangs in the past, effectively attempts to blackmail President Bukele with the unspoken threat of rising homicide statistics should they wish to make their voice heard or demand a concession.

The “Territorial Control Plan” is divided into seven phases, two of which have already been implemented. Phase 1 involved the deployment of hundreds of police officers and members of the armed forces onto the streets. The prevision for phase 2 includes reconstructing the social fabric and training young people. Phase 3 is pending the approval of a US$109 million dollar loan from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration to fortify El Salvador’s security forces. Phases 4 to 7 have not yet been made public.

The government believes the continual presence of the security forces in the most problematic conflict zones is crucial. Previously, they had been present for 72 hours at most, and once they retired, the criminal world sprang into action once more.

Financial sustainability is one of the most significant challenges for the strategy, which also promotes community engagement as a way of ensuring the latest figures can be maintained.

There is, after all, a limit to what the security forces can achieve in terms of repressing the violence. Without active participation from the community, the results will be difficult to sustain over time. Some analysts are in favour of investing in social reform and employment projects, which they say would help to reduce the homicide rate and not just the rate of criminal prosecution.


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The London Police are using facial recognition in one of the city’s busiest shopping districts

341.- monitoring-camera-city-video-royalty-free-thumbnailJust across from the Microsoft store on London’s Regent Street, and just outside the entrance to the Oxford Circus tube station, the London Police have activated facial recognition technology that uses cameras on top of police vans.

The London Metropolitan Police has insisted the rollout of “live” facial recognition across the British capital aims to reduce serious crime.  But its critics decry its impact on privacy in one of the world’s busiest commercial districts.

The technology is relatively simple: cameras scan the faces in the crowd, and when one matches with one on their list of wanted criminal suspects, the police react instantaneously.

But there is concern over claims the technology may falsely identify people as criminals, especially those from ethnic minorities.

A North American NGO called the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a report in which it tested technology from nearly 100 different companies, and found that in most cases empirical evidence showed that age, race and gender affected accuracy. It noted that some could misidentify people in certain groups up to 100 times more frequently than others.

Another human rights organisation, Liberty, also wanted to make its presence in the camera area known by handing out flyers asking passers-by to “resist facial recognition”. They believe the technology is most likely to misidentify women and people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. For this reason, they are opposed to the police force’s mass-scanning of all faces in range and the consequent harvesting of personal biometric data without consent.

For their part, the Japanese company that provided the technology, NEC, says the system tries to find matches with a pre-collected gallery of the faces of known criminal suspects. As a result, the live facial recognition technology does not store the faces of people who do not appear on any database.

Furthermore, the faces of those who aren’t on watch lists are blurred out in the footage viewed by officers and are not stored on police computers. According to police sources, the cameras will only be used at specific locations for a limited time.

Despite this, the list of organisations coming out against these police measures continues to grow. The Big Brother Watch organisation believes that never before have London citizens been subjected to identity checks without suspicion, let alone on a mass scale. They argue the technology makes citizens less free and no safer.



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Police strike drives up murder rate in Brazil

340.- Policiais_ocupam_Complexo_do_AlemaoThe now fivefold increase in the numbers of killings in various towns and cities in the north of Brazil has coincided with a strike by police and firefighters in support of pay increases after a six-year pay freeze.

The Federal Government has sent more than 2500 troops as reinforcements and hundreds of police officers have been dismissed for taking part in demonstrations in support of improved financial terms.

Hundreds of masked police officers tightened security in the north-east of Brazil during Carnival festivities, which had to be cancelled. Officers are trying to stop their colleagues from patrolling the streets and are making it difficult for them to move around by booby-trapping the wheels of their vehicles to puncture the tyres.

The decrease in police numbers has been matched by an increase in the number of killings, especially in the state of Cearà. Although the average number of killings was already high with six violent deaths per day so far in 2020, the official figure has increased fivefold with 150 killings last week, according to the Secretariat for Public Security and Community Defence.

Tension on the streets has reached the point where a senator from the left-wing Democratic Labour Party opposed to the police protests, Cid Gomes, suffered gunshot wounds when he tried to use a digger to gain entry to a police station that had been occupied by striking police officers in the city of Sobral.

The response of the Federal Government under President Jair Bolsonaro has been to send 2,500 troops to Cearà to retake the streets. In addition, authorities have dismissed more than 200 officers and have arrested some 40 on charges of desertion.

The protests started in December 2019. Police and firefighters in the state of Cearà demonstrated in front of the Legislative Assembly in the state capital Fortalesa demanding higher wages. Their unhappiness stems from the fact that they have not had any wage increases over the last six years, missing out on being paid salaries nearly 27% higher.

The Secretariat for Public Security and Community Defence in Cearà has explained that there was an investment of 600 million reals – more than $136 million – in security in the period 2015-2018. But the money was not spent on what the police were demanding but on taking on 10,000 more police and training 15,000 soldiers.

At the beginning of February, the government of Cearà agreed to increase pay for police and firefighters in stages to raise their current 3,200 real pay to 4,500. Expressed in dollars, their pay would go up from $750 to $1,025. But the pay increase would be introduced gradually over the period to 2022.

Police and firefighters are not satisfied and have called street demonstrations to express their unhappiness. But since the Brazilian constitution bars the forces of law and order from striking, the protests have been declared illegal by the courts.

That decision has had the opposite effect to the one intended and the police and firefighters have gone on all-out strike. The strike has still not come to an end despite outbreaks of violence and political and judicial pressure.


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The Government of El Salvador is adopting specific strategies to tackle gangs

339.- Mara_Salvatrucha_MS13Nayib Bukele, President of El Salvador, has announced the implementation of specific strategies aimed at reducing violence in the country, which continues to have one of the highest recorded homicide rates in the world at 50.3 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018.

Although there has been criticism from within government of earlier ‘iron fist’ policies to deal with gangs, it was explained that the government is shifting to new models in the fight against crime, seeing it as a social problem resulting from lack of opportunity and poverty. Even so, there has so far been no mention of prevention or rehabilitation policies, rather the talk has been about attacking the gangs in two areas that the current government sees as key: prisons and the centres of big cities.

The first thing the government wants to do is attack gang finance. The government wants to cut off the gangs’ income so that they have no finance. It is thought that the gangs finance round 80% of their activity through extortion rackets. In parallel, the government wants to stop money laundering through the businesses that enable the gangs to operate.

A second front is to recover control of the centres of big cities, which are thought to be where the gangs run most of their extortion rackets. Government sources are of the view that previous policies focused on small rural communities were misconceived.

To take back those historic city centres, the government will deploy CCTV and put more police and soldiers on the streets. There will be an investment of $15 million in improving pay and conditions for the forces of law and order.

The third strand in the fight against the gangs is to cut communication with prisons, since some 80% of orders for killings and extortion are thought to be issued from prison. The plan is to cut off messages from prisons. Implementation requires new prison staff in order to circumvent bribery and extortion within prisons themselves.

The security plan being implemented by the Salvadorian government does not envisage any role for dialogue with the gangs. What’s more, it has been stressed that a government should not talk to “criminal groups”.

There are gang experts who believe that ‘iron fist’ policies cannot work on their own without a plan that addresses the socio-economic roots of violence in the country. There is no point in locking up thousands of gang members because they are part of the social fabric of El Salvador.

But politicians believe that the public are more concerned about crime and the government is trying to show that they are determined, which is what Salvadorians are thought to want. Nevertheless, there are political commentators who think there is room for a twin strategy: implement the existing strategy with a high-profile tougher approach to crime and when the gangs react put forward alternative proposals.


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The Organisation of American States will support prison reform in Honduras

338.- 42025187020_31480db52d_bThe Government of Honduras and the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) have agreed to develop a penitentiary strategy to strengthen the capacities of the National Penitentiary Institute (INP) of Honduras.

The strategy will be rolled out over nine months and take a human rights approach to the care provided by the INP.

The agreement includes a restructuring of the prison system with integrative policies aimed at contributing to the social reinsertion of detainees in Honduras.

The OAS takes the view that “if you aspire to build societies free of violence and organised crime, you need to have penitentiary centres that educate and offer the opportunity to rehabilitate and reintegrate people who committed crimes into society”.

“A large part of the prison population will, at some point, recover their freedom, and we need them to be prepared to reintegrate into society”.

The strategy on which the OAS and Honduras will work – for a period of 9 months – will incorporate a human rights approach to the care provided by the system during the custody of detained persons.

The lines of action outlined by the OAS include:

– Improvement of the administration and management of the infrastructure of the prison system

– Security, control and life inside prison

– Integral rehabilitation and reintegration

– Post penitentiary assistance

– Transparency and accountability

The agreement was signed in the framework of the Fourth Meeting of the Authorities Responsible for Penitentiary and Prison Policies of the Americas.

It should be noted that according to its official figures, in 2019, Honduras recorded 3,996 homicides, 7.1% more than the 3,732 recorded in 2018.

The report also states that more than 80% of homicide victims in the country are economically active people between 18 and 50 years of age and that close to 6.5% are under 18.

Violence caused by organised crime and drug trafficking is one of the main problems in the country, which is one of those used by drug smugglers to move contraband from South America to the United States.

The Governments blames drug trafficking and extortion-related disputes between the rival Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 gangs for the majority of the homicides.

With regard to femicide, organised crime is responsible for 70% of violent female deaths in the country, and out of the 271 female assassination cases recorded in 2019, more than 90% remain unpunished. Partners or ex-partners cause the remaining 30% of deaths. A country of 9.2 million inhabitants, where one woman is killed every 18 hours.


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Victims of cybercrime in the United States lost $3.5 billion in 2019

337.- cybercrime

The Federal Bureau of Investigations Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3) has published a report on internet crime in the US during 2019. The report reveals that last year’s 467,361 reported incidences of cybercrime were responsible for losses of around $3.5 billion.

The IC3 says it has received 4,883,231 complaints since its inception in May 2000, with an average of around 340,000 claims per year and more than 1,200 complaints per day over the last five years.

They calculate that in the five years between 2015 and 2019, victims of cybercrime reported $10.5 billion of stolen funds.

The report concludes that phishing, extortion and similar non-payment or non-delivery scams were the most frequent causes of complaints.

The most costly crimes included business email compromise, romantic fraud and spoofing (propagating or imitating the account of a person or seller known to the victim to collect personal or financial information).

The IC3 also reported that the Recovery Asset Team (RAT), established in February 2018, has been able to assist in the recovery of funds for victims of various internet crimes.

The RAT, an independent task force set up in 2018, ended its first operational year in 2019 having recovered more than 300 million dollars worth of funds stolen by online fraud, accounting for a 79% return of all reported losses that year.

According to the report, these scams often involve a crime committed by imitating a legitimate email address. For example, an individual receives a message appearing to come from one of their company executives or from a company that has had previous dealings with that individual.

The email requests a seemingly legitimate payment by bank transfer or card purchase, but the transaction actually delivers the money directly to the offender.

In 2019, the IC3 observed an increase in the number of BEC (Business Email Compromise) complaints related to the diversion of payroll funds. In this type of scheme, fraudsters pose as employees and send an email requesting to update their direct deposit information to a company’s HR or payroll department.

In 2019, the IC3 received 13,633 complaints related to Tech Support Fraud from victims in 48 countries. The losses amounted to over $54 million, which represents a 40 per cent increase in losses from 2018.

According to the IC3, the vast majority of victims reporting Tech Support Fraud were over 60 years of age.

In 2019, the IC3 also received 2,047 complaints relating to ransomware, with adjusted losses of over $8.9 million.


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Global law enforcement operation to tackle marine pollution

336.- contaminacioA global law enforcement operation involving 61 countries has identified thousands of illicit activities behind marine pollution, as well as hundreds of environmental violations and severe cases of contamination worldwide.

Codenamed 30 Days at Sea 2.0, the operation, which took place towards the end of 2019, gathered more than 200 enforcement authorities worldwide for concerted action across all continents. The European leg of 30 Days at Sea 2.0 was coordinated in cooperation with Europol and Frontex.

As an illustration of the global extent of marine pollution crime, preliminary operational results exposed more than 3,000 offences detected during 17,000 inspections.

The offences – such as illegal discharges at sea, in rivers, or coastal areas – were found to have been committed primarily to avoid the cost of compliance with environmental legislation.

As part of Operation 30 Days at Sea 2.0, Interpol hosted an Operational Command Centre (OCC) in Singapore to focus on the illegal trade in plastic waste, a fundamental threat to marine environment security. The OCC brought key countries together to begin investigations into cases of illegal export or import of plastic waste.

Interpol played the role of coordinating effective global multi-agency action to help countries tackle this serious pollution crime.

Frontex helped monitor and patrol the Mediterranean with its various services, planes and ships taking part in joint maritime operations.

The operation also served to foster new and stronger working partnerships between national agencies in some countries, which in turn boosted operational results and sustainable cooperation mechanisms.

In Nigeria, Interpol’s Central Bureau in Abuja coordinated the action of different authorities through a task force created to conduct inspections into illegal oil refineries, found responsible for severe oil leakages polluting the country’s waterways.

Information exchanged between Malaysia and The Netherlands permitted authorities to identify the source country of seven containers of plastic waste being illegally shipped, from Belgium via Hong Kong, and to initiate their repatriation.

As part of the operation, some countries increased collective commitment to tackling plastic pollution crime through awareness campaigns in addition to actions on the ground.

Ecuador conducted a plastic waste collection campaign in the World Heritage site of the Galapagos Islands, resulting in the removal of more than 600 kg of refuse.

Indonesian authorities launched a public awareness campaign on the operation’s approach, backed up by messages from the police, to combat marine pollution.

For more information about the operations mentioned here, see the Twitter hashtags #PollutionCrime and #30DaysatSea.


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The number of deaths from terrorism continues to fall, but the threat posed by far-right terrorism and the Taliban increases

335.- Alpini_ISAFThe Institute for Economics & Peace has published the Global Terrorism Index (with data to the end of 2018). It confirms a 52% decrease in terror-related deaths since the number peaked in 2014. In 2018, the total number of deaths fell by 15.2% to 15,952. Between 1970 and 2017, close to 170,000 people have fallen victim to terrorist attacks. By contrast, the number of countries to have recorded at least one fatality has slightly increased, to 71 (two more than the previous year).

The overall decline in deaths primarily corresponds to military defeats inflicted on the Islamic State (ISIL), which in 2018 had only 18,000 fighters left in Iraq and Syria, down from 70,000 in 2014. Military successes against the group have resulted in a 63% reduction in their attacks and a subsequent 69% decrease in fatalities. United States-led airstrikes targeting Al-Shabaab in Somalia, have also contributed. However, despite successes in the fight against Nigeria’s Boko-Haram, the country still ranks third in the world for terrorist incidents, with a total of 8,567 during 2018, and an increase of more than one hundred terror-related deaths compared to the previous year. The activities of extremist Fulanis are thought to be responsible for the increase.

The South Asia region recorded the highest number of deaths, with Afghanistan’s 9,603 attacks and 7,379 deaths in 2018 (a 59% increase), pushing it into first place. Most of those deaths can be attributed to the increasing activity of Taliban groups, far outweighing the decline in deaths caused by ISIL. The notable decrease in fatalities brought about by ISIL’s retreat has seen Iraq move down into second place.

In Europe, the number of deaths from terrorism fell for the second successive year, from over two hundred in 2017 to 62 in 2018. The total number of terrorist incidents also fell by 40%, to 245 in 2018, the lowest figure since 2014.

Another relevant trend revealed by the report is the confirmed surge in far-right political terrorism since 2014. Although the absolute number of far-right attacks remains low when compared to other forms of terrorism, in North America, Western Europe, and Oceania, far-right attacks have increased by 320% over the past five years. In 2018, the number of people killed by far-right attacks rose to 26 (compared to 11 the previous year). This trend continued into 2019, with 77 deaths recorded as of September that year. The upward trend is significant and extremely worrying. This type of attack is more likely to be carried out by individuals unaffiliated with a specific terrorist group (60%).


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Colombia’s private security sector worth 7 trillion dollars annually

334.- 22186067056_e13205567b_bThe statistics published by Colombia’s National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science and the National Police attest to the country’s high crime rate. Between July and December of 2019, more than 11,000 homicides and 158,000 thefts were recorded by the two agencies respectively. The high number of offences make private security firms essential for protecting people, well-known locations, businesses and more.

According to figures from Colombia’s Superintendence of Surveillance and Private Security, there are currently 856 private security firms in the country. Companies involved in the industry generate more than 6.7 billion dollars and employ more than 28,000 bodyguards and 297,000 security guards who are responsible for protecting the property or people assigned to them.

The industry’s financial footprint represents 1.6% of Colombia’s GDP and creates 240,000 directly related and 216,000 indirectly related jobs.

Personnel working in the sector include 28,658 bodyguards – of whom 28,190 are male, and 468 are female, 297,133 security guards – of whom 261,046 are male, and 36,087 are female, and lastly 4,456 dog guards – of whom 4,221 are male and 235 are female.

In 2019, there were 1,796 vehicles authorised for private security use. The vehicles are specially adapted to provide the level of protection required by the industry and firms must apply for a permit authorising their usage. That authorisation has various prerequisites, including proving that the lives of the people who use the vehicle are at risk.

International ballistic standards for armoured cars stipulate various levels of vehicle protection. Levels 1, 2 and 3 protect vehicles from the short-range weapons that, according to the National Police, are often used by common criminals.

Some security experts argue that the sector’s increased size is a result of the government’s failure to sufficiently protect its citizens, leaving a sizeable gap for the growth of private-sector security firms.

That said, Colombia does invest heavily in public sector security. The country spends more of its budget on public safety than any of its neighbours.


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Facebook-related crimes increase by 19% in the UK

333.- Facebook UKThe British government plans to police social media by issuing a new code of conduct.

Social media companies will be legally obliged to protect children by preventing them from viewing any content deemed to be detrimental to their wellbeing or mental health.

Failure to comply with the government-backed code could result in fines and penalties that could potentially cost an offending company millions of pounds. The current code of conduct was created in 2017 and updated in April 2019.

News of the stricter code comes as statistics obtained from the British police reveal an alarming increase in the number of reported crimes linked to Facebook.

Data obtained from 20 different UK police forces under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request indicates that in the financial year 2019–20, the number of Facebook-related crimes reported to the police was 32,451. When compared to the same period in 2017–18, this total shows an increase in crime of 19%.

Official figures from the police list the total number of crimes with a connection to Facebook as 55,643. Data shared under the FOI request revealed that Leicestershire Police received the highest number of reports of Facebook-linked crimes. In total, the English Midlands force said it had recorded 10,405 such incidents, of which 408 involved victims categorised as “vulnerable”.

Lancashire Constabulary reported the second-highest number of crimes linked to the social media giant. The North West England force said it had recorded 8,829 Facebook-connected crimes, of which 718 were harassment, 179 were sexual offences, 1,007 involved offensive messages, and 1,497 were classified as malicious communication.

Greater Manchester Police reported 8,230 Facebook-linked crimes, some of which involved “engaging in sexual activity with a child”.

The FOI request was sent out by a Parliament think tank. Figures obtained by the think tank via an FOI request for offences that mentioned Instagram or Facebook in the crime notes found that Instagram had been used by paedophiles, stalkers, burglars, and drug dealers to commit 15,143 crimes since 2017. The total number of cases associated with both sites since 2017 is 70,786.



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