A Comprehensive Public Security System in Buenos Aires

361.- baixaSince 2017, the city of Buenos Aires has been operating its Comprehensive Public Security System. The exhaustive plan covers a range of initiatives, including training for the new City Police Force, improving social integration, citizen participation, etc.

The Comprehensive Public Security System coordinates more than 32,000 agents who operate in a unified way from their positions in the City Police, the fire service, emergency departments, the emergency medical care system (SAME), civil protection, etc. Of these 32,000 agents, 24,869 are officers of the City Police, which is the result of a merger between the Metropolitan Police Force and the Argentine Federal Police.

Furthermore, 1,000 civilians were recruited to cover administrative tasks in police stations, a move which allowed the same number of police officers to return to the streets. These police officers work under a new territorial deployment plan, with a system of fixed stops and police patrols based on software that integrates population density, the flow of people and the crime map.

The Comprehensive Public Security System uses innovative technologies across the board:

  • 25,000 mobile phones have been supplied to agents. At the same time, agents are prohibited from using private phones or other devices to avoid distractions.
  • The mobiles are equipped with GPS to geolocate and systematically record the routes travelled by emergency vehicles.
  • A “digital ring” controls 73 of the city’s entry and exit points with cameras that read the license plates of all vehicles entering and leaving the city’s perimeter.
  • Gender violence is addressed with panic buttons and “safe women” wristbands.
  • A comprehensive video surveillance system monitors all the city’s cameras. Currently, there are more than 10,000 cameras installed on the streets and 4,000 within the transport system. Of the cameras installed on the streets, 300 are equipped with facial recognition to identify fugitives from the justice system.
  • Calls are received through a centralised reception system with a dedicated 911 room and a single coordination and control centre.
  • Analytical methods are used to combat crime; the crime map, for example, is used to collect, process and analyse criminal behaviour in the city.
  • Citizens can report crimes through a single reporting system operated through videoconference booths located at all police stations.


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The impact of COVID-19 on European drug markets

360.- baixaThe European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol published an analysis of EU drug markets towards the end of 2019.

At that time, no one could have predicted the dramatic changes that COVID-19 would bring, nor the extent to which it has affected our daily lives. The pandemic has also had a significant impact on drug markets. There is a critical need to understand the extent and nature of this impact to identify any areas that might require further investigation.

The objective of this analysis of EU drug markets is to increase understanding of ongoing developments and their impact on the internal security and public health of the EU in order to inform European institutions and partners in the EU Member States. This is of vital importance for formulating effective responses.

Global restrictions on travel and other measures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a temporary disruptive impact on the drug market, leading to shortages of and higher prices for some drugs. Other consequences include:

  • The disruption to the supply chain and logistics of drug trafficking in Europe is most evident at the distribution level, because of social distancing measures.
  • The movement of bulk quantities of drugs between EU Member States has continued despite the introduction of border controls due to the continued commercial transportation of goods throughout the EU.
  • In relation to cocaine, in particular, there is little evidence of disruption to activity at the wholesale importation level; however, experts in some countries report increasing prices and decreasing purity at the consumer level, indicative of localised supply shortages.
  • Organised crime groups remain resilient and are adapting their modi operandi to the current situation, further exploiting secure communication channels and adapting transportation models, trafficking routes and concealment methods.
  • The current instability has led to an increasingly volatile environment for criminal businesses along the supply chain in Europe and appears to have resulted in increased levels of violence among mid-level distributors.
  • Home deliveries, less face-to-face dealing and less reliance on cash as a form of payment seem to be increasing for individual transactions.
  • Shortages of cannabis resin have led to inflated retail prices.
  • Heroin trafficking continues to exist on many of the known routes. The availability of heroin has decreased in some areas, but this varies depending on national confinement rules and restrictions on movement, with higher prices also reported in some places.
  • Cocaine trafficking using maritime shipping containers has continued at levels comparable to or even possibly higher than those seen in 2019.

Synthetic drug production continues in the main European producing zones in the Netherlands and Belgium, as evidenced by the number of illicit laboratories dismantled. However, in Europe and globally, the demand for synthetic drugs used in recreational settings, in particular MDMA, seems to have diminished in the short term due to the closure of venues and cancellation of festivals.


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The number of prisoners in the United States decreased in 2018

359.- imagesDuring 2018, the total prison population in the USA declined from 1,489,200 to 1,465,200, a decrease of 24,000 prisoners, accounting for a 1.6% reduction. The number of male prisoners fell by 1.7%, to 1,354,313, while the number of female prisoners fell by 0.5%, to 110,845.

In 2018, the combined state and federal imprisonment rate was 431 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 US residents. This was the lowest ratio since 1996, which recorded 427 prisoners per 100,000 resident citizens.

During the last decade, the ratio has decreased by 15%, from 506 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 US residents in 2008 to 431 per 100,000 in 2018.

With regard to the imprisonment data for different ethnic groups, from 2008 to 2018, the imprisonment rate fell by 28% among black residents, 21% among Hispanics and 13% among whites. In 2018, the imprisonment rate of black residents was the lowest since 1989. It’s important to note that, in 2018, the imprisonment rate of black males was 5.8 times that of white males, while the imprisonment rate of black females was 1.8 times the rate of white females.

At year-end 2018, a total of 22 states had imprisonment rates that were higher than the nationwide average. The state with the highest rate was Louisiana, with 695 per 100,000 state residents, followed by Oklahoma, with 693 per 100,000, and Mississippi, with 626 per 100,000 inhabitants. On the other hand, states such as Minnesota, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont had less than 200 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 residents.

Among the total number of prisoners held in the US in 2018, 7.7% of them were non-US citizens, a similar figure to the 6.9% of non-US citizens present in the country according to the US Census Bureau. With regard to age, more than 3% of prisoners were over 64 years old.

It’s worth noting that among the military prisoners who had served in the US Air force or the US Navy, almost 75% were in prison for a sexual offence. And 45% of those were serving time for a violent sexual offence.

In relation to reasons for imprisonment and ethnicity, 61% of the black and Hispanic prison communities and 48% of the white prison community were serving time for a violent offence. Concurrently, 23% of sentenced white prisoners are serving time for crimes against property, while among Hispanic and black inmates, the figure is 13%. Around 15% of prisoners are serving time for public health disorders –4% for possession–, with percentages ranging from 13% of black prisoners to 16% of whites.

Lastly, 67% of prison admissions in 2018 came from new court commitments, while 30% were due to post-custody supervision violations. The remaining 3% can be attributed to other causes, such as readmissions.



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Women and organised crime in Latin America

358.- baixaOrganised crime is one of the main problems faced by Latin America. This, according to the “Women in Organised Crime in Latin America: Beyond Victims and Victimisers” report commissioned by the Colombian Organised Crime Observatory.

Among its disruptive effects, the high levels of violence seen across the region are especially alarming. Since the 1990s, the opening-up of economies, in combination with the institutional weakness of the states and other social factors such as poverty and inequality, have favoured the growth of transnational criminal activities, including drug trafficking, arms trafficking, and migrant smuggling. As a result, Latin America has become the region with the fastest-growing criminal dynamics in the world.

Men have always been dominant in the different illegal economies, and a tendency to see criminal activities as a “man’s activity” has prevailed. Female participation in organised crime has largely been overlooked by academic analysis and public debate.

Due to the scarcity of information and data, investigations into this topic are limited although they have increased in the last decade. The relative invisibility of women in debates about organised crime stems from the general perception that they are appendices to male criminals, typically partners or sexual objects. Stereotypes of women as being dependent and weak reinforce the notion that they are incapable of making independent decisions regarding their participation in illegal activities.

Female participation in organised crime structures is not uniform. The diverse roles that women play in criminal economies allow us to characterise different types of participation forming a spectrum, which ranges from subordinates and victims to protagonists, leaders and perpetrators.

Despite the scarce systematic empirical evidence about the participation of women in organised crime, this investigation allows us to make some recommendations focused on prevention and attention for affected communities:

  • Strengthen statistical information systems related to organised crime and the participation of women in diverse criminal acts, both as victims and perpetrators.
  • Build strategies which account for the varied nature of the participation of women in organised crime economies.
  • Understand the factors that drive women to participate in illegal acts for preventive purposes.
  • Map out the multiple and varied roles women play in organised crime, including their role in other illegal economies like contraband and extortion.
  • Promote the empowerment of women, through collective initiatives which seek to give opportunities to those at risk of being recruited by organised crime.
  • Strengthen cooperation mechanisms, designed to help the victims of organised crime, between local, regional and national governments across Latin America.
  • Urge Latin American police and judicial bodies to apply a gender approach to their investigations.
  • Seek effective collaboration between social, economic and educational policy institutions to reorient those women specialised in certain roles within criminal economies towards legality.


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Be careful with your mobile phone SIM

357.- baixaHow do criminals steal thousands of euros by hijacking mobile phone numbers? It’s a common story: the signal bars disappear from your mobile phone, and people call your phone number, but it doesn’t ring. You try to login to your bank account, but the password fails. You have become the newest victim of SIM swap fraud, and your phone number is now in the control of a criminal.

SIM swap fraud is committed when a fraudster dupes the victim’s mobile phone operator into porting the victim’s mobile number to a SIM in their possession. The fraudster then starts receiving any incoming calls and text messages, including the one-time banking passwords which are sent to the victim’s phone number.

The fraudster can then perform transactions, using information gathered through techniques like malware, and when the bank sends a one-time-password via SMS, the criminal receives it and completes the authorisation for the transaction.

Several law enforcement agencies in Europe -Austria, Spain and Romania- have carried out operations against this common denominator, considered by the authorities to be a growing threat. In Spain, the state authorities working in conjunction with Europol and the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), arrested a group of 12 individuals who had managed to steal amounts of up to €137,000 from the bank accounts of several victims. The suspects were of Italian, Romanian, Colombian and Spanish nationality.

The modus operandi was simple, yet effective. The criminals managed to obtain victims’ online banking credentials with different banks by employing hacking techniques like banking trojans or other types of malware.

If you don’t want to be the next victim, here are some measures you can to take to protect yourself:

  • Keep your devices’ software up to date.
  • Do not click on links or download attachments that come with unexpected emails.
  • Do not reply to suspicious emails.
  • Limit the amount of personal data you share online.
  • Try to use two-factor authentication for your online services, rather than having an authentication code sent over SMS.
  • When possible, do not associate your phone number with sensitive online accounts.
  • Set up your own PIN to restrict access to the SIM card. Do not share this PIN with anyone.

If your phone loses reception suddenly for nor apparent reason:

  • Report the situation to your service provider.
  • If there are suspicious transactions in your bank account, contact the bank.
  • Immediately change all the passwords for your online accounts.
  • Keep all evidence, in case you need to contact the police.


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A complex situation in Argentine prisons

356.- baixaTo talk about the Argentine penitentiary system is to enter into an incredibly complex universe, but the latest official statistics for January 2019 reveal a grim reality: 103,000 inmates held in 308 prisons.

 Overcrowding is the crucial trait and the foremost cause for concern in Argentine prisons. The upward trend has been particularly steep since 2007, far-exceeding the crime rate. The crime rate currently stands at one-third of the incarceration rate.

The growth in the prison population can be attributed to multiple factors: a tightening of criminal law, the repressive narrative of official speeches, social injustices, the influence of the media, etc.

Furthermore, almost half of the 103,000 inmates are being held on remand, without a trial to determine their guilt. Another determining factor is the indiscriminate imprisonment decreed on a daily basis by judges, and a failure to release people who would be eligible for a regime other than the penitentiary system.

Overpopulated prisons lead to overcrowding, outbreaks of violence among prisoners and between prisoners and prison officials, wear and tear on facilities as a result of intensive use, and increasing difficulties in accessing basic and essential rights – food, healthcare, education, etc. It goes without saying that the more inmates there are, the more difficult it becomes to access the system’s scarce resources.

However, there are also significant signs of change on the horizon. First and foremost, openness and transparency. Twenty years ago, prisons were completely closed off from the rest of the world. Nowadays their hallways are frequently inhabited by people from the free world and all kinds of organisations who visit the establishments to offer multiple services: cultural, educational, employment, religious, sports, etc. Both good and bad aspects of prison life waste no time in reaching public opinion.

With regards to employment, slowly, some self-management entrepreneurship is beginning to emerge, where people deprived of their liberty have started to market their products outside of the prison walls.

But it’s tough to access these rights in the context of confinement, and these tentative initiatives do not make up for the harsh reality of life in the Argentine penitentiary system. That said, they’re also hard to access outside of prison.

The role of prison officers also deserves a mention. A job founded on a tragic history of abuse and violence is currently experiencing a generational shift among officers, and the progressive incorporation of women in a historically male-dominated environment.


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The number of drug users in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to increase by nearly 150%

355.- baixaThe new research from ENACT [1] is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the illicit African drug trade, consumption patterns and African drug policy.

According to ENACT’s studies on transnational organised crime, ineffective drug policy, fuelled by corruption and organised crime, are exacerbating an expanding drug crisis in Africa.

African consumption of illegal drugs, including non-medical use of prescription opioids, threatens national development and is projected to become a public health emergency.

Sub-Saharan Africa will see the world’s biggest surge in illicit drug users in the next 30 years, with its share of global drug consumption projected to double.

Prisons are overcrowded, and generations of young people are disenfranchised by criminal convictions for low-level drug crimes. Continental drug markets continue to expand even as illicit crops are destroyed, drug labs dismantled, and drug shipments seized.

Drugs have become a revenue source for terrorist organisations and crime syndicates, but African law enforcement bodies lack the institutional, technological and financial capacities to have a significant impact on drug trafficking markets.

Researchers estimate that the number of drug users in sub-Saharan Africa will increase by nearly 150% in the next three decades. They forecast that by 2050 there will be an additional 14 million Africans using illegal drugs, with a total of 23 million users in sub-Saharan Africa.

West Africa’s role has expanded as a global trafficking hub for illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, and an illegal economy has developed around the production and distribution of methamphetamines.

Africa’s dangerous drugs phenomenon contributes to the growing global production of cocaine and heroin, which, according to the 2018 World Drug Report, are at the highest levels ever recorded. Other stimulants of the surging trade and consumption of drugs include urbanisation, development of infrastructure and transport routes, a fast-growing youth population, and challenging social and economic circumstances for millions of people.

The researchers made a number of recommendations to African Union policymakers. Effective pan-African responses to the crisis must include efforts to reduce production and trafficking of drugs, coupled with demand reduction and expanded healthcare for the treatment and care of drug users.

All regions should bolster their cross-border law enforcement responses to curb the supply and production of illicit drugs, targeting traffickers rather than users. The diversion of pharmaceutical opioids from legal channels also needs to be curbed.

[1] ENACT is funded by the European Union. The project builds knowledge and skills to enhance Africa’s response to transnational organised crime. It analyses how organised crime affects stability, governance, the rule of law and development in Africa, and works to mitigate its impact. ENACT is implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.


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The effects of the coronavirus on organised crime in Latin America

354.- imagesThe coronavirus pandemic has forced criminal organisations in Latin America to make various internal changes. These adjustments stem from a desire to maintain their illicit operations despite the inconveniences: the trafficking of drugs and contraband, extortion and controlling the passage of migrants across borders. Their activities have been complicated by increased police checks and a lack of human activity.

As a result, organised crime gangs are having to move into previously unexplored territories, such as cybercrime or stealing medical supplies, for example. Some of the diverse dynamics being adopted by organised crime groups in Latin America are outlined below:

More social capital for criminals. Gangs such as MS13 and Barrio18 in El Salvador or the Jalisco cartel in Mexico, have created a situation whereby the criminals have supplanted the role of the State. The lockdown has afforded them a chance to consolidate control, win-over citizens and cultivate support.

The emergence of a new black market for medical equipment and medicines. Several countries on the continent already suffered from an active black market in medicines, and the pandemic has brought about an increase in thefts of medical supplies such as masks, hand sanitisers and even coronavirus detection kits.

The pandemic has exposed a severe lack of supply chain control in the medical field, which allows for products to be easily stolen.

More corruption. Healthcare systems have long been a target for corruption. Corrupt civil servants are taking advantage of the pandemic and using it as an opportunity to line their pockets.

More cybercrime. Criminals and hackers are taking advantage of increased online activity from citizens, businesses and government bodies. Brazil, Mexico and Colombia are the top three countries in Latin America for malware attacks.

In addition, organised crime groups are increasingly laundering money through cryptocurrency.

Less human trafficking. The tightening of border controls in response to the pandemic’s arrival in Latin America has forced organised crime gangs to scale back their activity in this field. Furthermore, the prices charged by the people smugglers, known as “coyotes”, have increased as crossing the various borders has become more difficult. They’re unlikely to lower these charges in the short-term.

Less illicit drugs, higher Prices. Drugs gangs have had to contend with transportation restrictions and increased patrols to enforce quarantines. As many borders have been closed, and police are monitoring vehicles, traffickers are finding it harder to move their product.

The impact has even been felt in US cities, where drug prices have spiked.



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COVID-19 causes a surge in firearms sales in the USA

353.- baixaThe arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in the United Stated prompted increased sales of all types of arms, even leading to queues outside some shops.[1] Many of the buyers say they need to feel safe during the lockdown, which is forcing them to stay at home, sometimes alone. The demand for weapons has been largely non-specific. Customers want almost any type of weapon they can use to defend themselves; this in itself is unusual because, typically, people who buy arms have a specific kind of weapon in mind.

The first days of the pandemic in the US quickly led to cases of deaths by firearm involving suicides or issues related to the social distancing rules implemented to curb the coronavirus. In Detroit, for example, armed demonstrators protested against the stay-at-home order and the closure of gun shops.[2]

Faced with the need to decide which businesses could remain open, the vast majority of governors opted to categorise gun shops as suppliers of essential products, basic necessities, and as such, have been allowed to continue trading as usual.[3] Only five states categorised gun shops as non-essential businesses, forcing them to close as a result: New York, New Mexico, Washington, Massachusetts and Michigan. To comply with social distancing rules, federally-licensed vendors can even sell guns on the street or to customers in their cars. It is worth noting that in Virginia, while not forcing gun stores to close due to lockdown, they have recently passed a law limiting the sale and possession of firearms.[4]

The National Rifle Association, which has been in dire financial straits for some time due to costly internal battles, among other things, and laid off staff immediately before the pandemic arrived is actively fighting the governors who have forced gun shops to close. It has even gone as far as to sue, as a minimum, the governors of New Mexico and Massachusetts.

Research on the subject is unequivocal:

  • People are more likely to sustain injuries after threatening the attackers with a gun than if they call the police or run away.
  • Having a firearm in the home increases the chance that members of that household will be injured or killed.
  • Only one in every 40 firearm homicides are a legitimate act of self-defence.
  • The more firearms in circulation, the more accidental shootings and homicides.

As a result, it seems evident that the increased number of weapons in homes during the lockdown increases the chance of domestic conflicts becoming life-threatening situations. As journalist Melinda Wenner Moyer concludes in a recently published article: “The more guns we have, and the closer we keep them to us, the more danger we will be in during this pandemic”.[5] By contrast, in a country where public opinion considers the possession of a weapon a fundamental right, guaranteed by the second amendment of the Constitution, only a few governors have dared to face the uproar that can be caused by the closure of gun shops.

[1] https://www.thetrace.org/2020/04/the-coronavirus-has-gun-sales-soaring-his-fear-is-selling-to-the-wrong-person/

[2] https://www.thetrace.org/rounds/daily-bulletin-armed-protesters-stay-at-home-order-michigan/

[3] https://www.thetrace.org/2020/03/coronavirus-gun-store-closures-state-map/

[4] https://www.thetrace.org/2020/01/virginia-lawmakers-advance-historic-gun-reform-package-heres-what-it-means/

[5] https://www.thetrace.org/2020/04/gun-safety-research-coronavirus-gun-sales/


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