Colombia is to inaugurate a university dedicated to security subjects

It is estimated that in Colombia there are over 380,000 men and women who work for private security firms performing duties as security guards. This is shown by the statistics collected by the country’s National Confederation of Private Surveillance Associations (CONFEVIP).

Those working in this field in Colombia are required to be of adult age, to have completed their military service, to have no criminal record and to have a certificate indicating a knowledge of private security questions.

It is for this reason among others that in the second half of this year a training university for security guards is to be inaugurated in Medellín. The new university will form part of the private security firm Andiseg, which plans to organise the training of the more than 1,500 workers operating in this sector throughout the department of Antioquia.

The aim of the new university is to keep security guards updated about the new technological tools that have been developed in the security field.

Miguel Ángel Díaz, the president of the security firm Andiseg, explained that applicants will be able to graduate from three different courses, each of which has been designed with a view to the requirements of the employment market in recent years and, in particular, now that the health and economic crisis has led to an increase of more than 7% in demand for private security services.

The persons who complete these courses will receive qualifications as professional technicians in private security, professional technicians in technological functions or professional technicians in the operation of drones and new technology, depending on the course that they choose.

With regard to these new tools, the company has indicated that the aim is for security firms to be able to offer more secure services in terms of the provision of security, through devices such as mobile phones, with products such as panic buttons and the geographical referencing of illegal activities or dangerous areas.

The aim is to introduce state-of-the-art technological innovations from the international security market. Artificial intelligence, blockchain and data mining will be made available to Colombians to make their lives safer and more secure, and to contribute to the country’s economic growth.

Migue Ángel Díaz detailed new services offered by Andiseg to combine security with technology: online escorts, virtual guards and Andicity.

An online escort is a cutting-edge escort that provides security in real time in the field of logistics, while a virtual guard represents a form of remote surveillance that shows the end user what is happening in their office, factory, field, etc., in real time. For this purpose drones, cameras and monitoring systems are used.

Finally, Andicity is a panic button that is managed through an app on which users can report robberies, thefts, accidents or other new developments, and also receive the support and assistance of security guards and supervisors.

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El Salvador expands its fight against the gangs with 1,000 more soldiers

A few weeks ago, the Government of El Salvador decided to assign 1,042 more members of its Armed Forces to security operations, working in conjunction with officers of the country’s National Police to reinforce its defence strategy against gangs and other forms of serious criminal activity.

This new detachment of 1,042 means that there is now a total of 9,000 soldiers taking part in what is known as the Territorial Control Plan. This strategic plan was introduced in July 2019, with the aim of recovering areas of the country controlled by gangs and reducing the number of murders and other related crimes.

This new contingent was assigned to patrol duties in areas with the highest levels of criminality.

It is currently estimated that there are some 60,000 gang members active within El Salvador, belonging to three dominant groups: the “Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13)”, the “Barrio 18-Sureños”, and the “Barrio 18-Revolucionarios”. The majority of murders taking place in the country are attributed to these three gangs.

In addition to this, El Salvador continues to be a transit point for drug traffic, since it transports its consignments to the United States and other countries, where the gangs play an increasingly active role, given that they control many areas of the country.  The gangs have developed from imposing extortion rackets on drug dealers in the areas they control to becoming direct distributors, in addition to being also consumers.

In late 2020 in the city of San Salvador, the authorities succeeded for the first time in dismantling a laboratory of metamphetamines owned by the MS-13 gang. To conceal its activities from the police, the laboratory had operated under the guise of a religious community. The level of consumption of amphetamines in Central America is higher than the global average, which represents a potential market that that the gangs can control in the future through their retail drug distribution networks.

It is currently considered that the gangs have established relationships with certain international drug trafficking organisations, offering a variety of services: guaranteeing security or even transporting the products themselves. They have probably come into contact with considerable quantities of drugs, thus entering directly into this line of illegal activity.

It is for this reason that the number of military contingents is being increased throughout the country. For example, at the start of the year 500 kg of cocaine were intercepted on board a boat sailing in El Salvador territorial waters.

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73 presumed people traffickers arrested in a pan-European operation

Between 31 May and 6 June 2021, Europol provided support for coordinated action on a European scale against the trafficking of persons for forced labour purposes. The operation, directed by the Netherlands, involved a wide range of public authorities, including police forces, Customs officers and border guards, labour inspectors and tax authorities. In total, 23 countries participated in the coordinated operations.

The week of coordinated action involved:

229 arrests (73 for people trafficking)

• 630 identified potential victims of different types of exploitation

• Over 4,890 proved locations

• 16,530 vehicles checked

• 56,250 persons checked

750 new investigations opened, 150 related to people trafficking.

The police authorities carried out checks in manpower-intensive sectors of activity that require only workers with low-level skills. Employees in sectors such as transport, logistics and the construction industry are more vulnerable to exploitation because of the lower level of education and awareness that they require in terms of labour rights and people trafficking. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has also reinforced certain feelings of vulnerability. For example, victims accept employment in working conditions that may threaten their health. The factors that endanger their health include mass labour environments, low levels of hygiene and an absence of health care.

The risks of exploitation vary depending on the sector. Transport companies give work to many nationals from third countries, who are exposed to the risks of exploitation linked to travelling in overtime periods and very low wages. Another objective of the checks was also the labour exploitation of domestic workers employed for 24 hours a day to look after persons or animals. Some sectors of employment such as nail-bars have been linked to the exploitation of victims of Vietnamese origin. Their vulnerability often increases due to the debt-slavery caused by their journeys to the European Union. The authorities also focused on the potential exploitation of migrants awaiting refugee status during their asylum application procedures. Another focus-point was the facilitators involved in people trafficking, specifically in relation to the use of false and fraudulent documents.

Europol coordinated the action days and facilitated the exchanging of information between the participating countries. It thus provided analytical and operational support on a 24/7 basis and facilitated the exchanging of communications in real time between the participating authorities.

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800 criminals arrested in biggest ever law enforcement operation against encrypted communication

The US FBI, the Dutch National Police (Politie) and the Swedish Police Authority (Polisen) in cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and 16 other countries have carried out, with the support of Europol, one of the largest and most sophisticated law enforcement operations to date in the fight against encrypted criminal activities, an operation known as Greenlight / Trojan Shield.

Since 2019, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, in close coordination with the Australian Federal Police, strategically developed and covertly operated an encrypted device company, called ANOM, which grew to service more than 12,000 encrypted devices to over 300 criminal syndicates operating in more than 100 countries, including Italian organised crime, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and international drug trafficking organisations.

The goal of the new platform was to target global organised crime, drug trafficking, and money laundering organisations, regardless of where they operated, and offer an encrypted device with features sought by the organised crime networks, such as remote wipe passwords.

The FBI and the 16 other countries of the international coalition, supported by Europol and in coordination with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, then exploited the intelligence from the 27 million messages obtained and reviewed them over 18 months while ANOM’s criminal users discussed their criminal activities.

A series of large-scale law enforcement actions were executed over the past days across 16 countries resulting in more than 700 house searches, more than 800 arrests and the seizure of over 8 tons of cocaine, 22 tons of cannabis and cannabis resin, 2 tons of synthetic drugs (amphetamine and methamphetamine), 6 tons of synthetic drugs precursors, 250 firearms, 55 luxury vehicles and over $48 million in various worldwide currencies and cryptocurrencies. Countless spin-off operations will be carried out in the weeks to come.

Operation Trojan Shield / Greenlight will enable Europol to further enhance the intelligence picture on organised crime affecting the EU due to the quality of the information gathered. This enhanced intelligence picture will support the continued effort in identifying high-value criminal targets on a global scale.

Criminal networks have a huge demand for encrypted communication platforms to facilitate their activities. However, the market for encrypted platforms is considered to be volatile. In July 2020, the EncroChat encrypted platform was dismantled by the Operational Taskforce EMMA (France, the Netherlands).

This operation provided invaluable insights into an unprecedented amount of information exchanged between criminals. After the takedown of Sky ECC in March 2021, many organised crime networks sought a quick encrypted replacement for a communication platform that would allow them to evade law enforcement detection.

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€45 million worth of heroin seized in Romania

The 1.5 tonnes of heroin, seized in the port of Constanta, Romania, was concealed in a shipment of a legal company operated by the criminal network.

Europol supported the Romanian police (Poliția Română) in dismantling an organised crime group involved in large-scale drug trafficking. The operation also involved law enforcement authorities from Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The operation, which took place on the 19, 20 and 25 May, led to:

  • 12 criminal activity location searches Belgium, Hungary, the Netherlands and Romania.
  • 10 suspects arrested in three countries: 7 in Belgium, 2 in the Netherlands and 1 in Romania.
  • 1.452 kg heroin seized, for an estimated value of €45 million.
  • Intervention in the legal business structures from across the EU that were being used to conceal the drug trafficking.

On 10 May 2021, the Romanian authorities detected and seized 1. 452 kg heroin in two containers loaded with marble slates. The containers were shipped to the Romanian port of Constanta from the Middle East. The following operational activities and monitoring of the drug delivery led to the arrests of the main targets on 19-20 May. The Belgium authorities arrested another suspect on 25 May.

This operation is the result of a one-year-long investigation targeting a high-profile criminal network involved in large scale drug trafficking. The leader of the criminal network had established a complex trade infrastructure to facilitate the import of large quantities of drugs from the production sites to the distribution market in Europe. He was using a significant number of companies across the EU to organise the distribution flow and conceal the illegal trafficking behind the façade of legal trade.

The joint operational actions across the EU, which involved 90 officers in Romania only, were enabled by a swift judicial and law enforcement coordination, supported by Europol and Eurojust. Europol facilitated the information exchange and provided analytical support.

On the action day, Europol supported the field activities by setting up a virtual command post. It also deployed an expert to Romania to enable the cross-checking of operational information in real-time. For its part, Eurojust facilitated the cooperation between judicial authorities, which enabled the controlled deliveries and the collection of evidence.

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International operation against a large cocaine laboratory in Rotterdam

Industrial-scale cocaine laboratory discovered in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, thanks to information obtained from Encrochat, an encrypted telephone network used by criminal networks.

An international multi-agency operation has led to nine arrests, the seizure of over €3.4 million in cash and the shut-down of an industrial-sized cocaine production lab, in the framework of Operation SR13.

The cooperation between the French National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) and the Dutch Police (Politie) in the framework of the investigation into Encrochat led to the discovery of the industrial-scale cocaine laboratory in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Acting on information from Europol and the French Gendarmerie, 80 Dutch police officers, accompanied by their SWAT teams and specialised dogs, raided several addresses in the cities of Rotterdam and The Hague in the early hours of 26 May. The clandestine drug laboratory was found hidden in a building also housing a garage used by criminals to customise vehicles with secret compartments to transport drugs across Europe. A total of seven vehicles already equipped with such compartments were seized on site, alongside a vehicle worth €110 000.

Both the drug laboratory and garage were run by the same criminal syndicate which was flooding Europe with cocaine. One of its members was arrested in Rotterdam under a European Arrest Warrant facilitated by Eurojust.

This operation follows an earlier action day carried out by the French Gendarmerie on 31 March, during which 450 of its officers were deployed against the same criminal group, leading to the arrest of eight members of the gang. In addition, €5 million worth of cocaine was seized in the region of Marseilles, alongside €3 million worth of cannabis resin and €3.4 million in cash. The investigation led to the seizure of the cocaine at the underground laboratory in the Netherlands this week.

Europol support

In the framework of intelligence activities underway with its operational counterparts, Europol developed intelligence on the activities of this criminal syndicate in Europe.

In November 2020, Europol brought together the national investigators on both sides, who have since been working closely together to establish a joint strategy to bring down the whole network. The suspects were identified with the support of Operation EMMA 95/LEMONT 26, the French and Dutch-led investigation into the Encrochat network.

Since then, Europol has provided continuous intelligence development and analysis to support the field investigators.

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Police intercept more than 250 Vietnamese immigrants in Germany

In the early hours of 31 May, about 740 police officers carried out coordinated raids across Germany and Slovakia against the members of a criminal syndicate smuggling Vietnamese nationals into Europe, arresting 3 suspected criminals.

The main bulk of today’s actions took place in Germany, with house searches carried out in the towns of Hamburg, Schönefeld, Recklinghausen, Minden, Bückeburg, Halle, Bitterfeld-Wolften and Leipzig. A number of searcheswere also executed in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The investigation uncovered that this organised crime group was responsible for facilitating the entry of over 250 irregular migrants of Vietnamese origin into Germany and charging each migrant between €13,000 to €21,000 for the journey.

The criminal network provided migrants back in Vietnam with valid Schengen visas issued on false grounds using invitations provided by various companies controlled by the network in Slovakia.

Once the migrants arrived in Europe, the network would arrange for their travel to Germany by means of private cars. There, the migrants were deprived of their personal belongings and kept in captivity against their will until they paid back their debts to the criminal network through unpaid work.

The operation was carried out in the framework of an Operational Taskforce set up at Europol in November 2020 between the German Federal Police (Bundespolizei), the Police Force of the Slovak Republic (Policajný zbor Slovenskej republiky) and Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC). This Operational Taskforce focuses specifically on the organised crime networks smuggling Vietnamese nationals into Europe.

In reference to the role of Europol:

• In November 2020, Europol brought together the national investigators on both sides, who have been working since closely together to establish a joint strategy to bring down the whole migrant-smuggling network.

• Since then, Europol has provided continuous intelligence development and analysis to support the field investigators.

A virtual command post was set up by Europol on the action day to ensure seamless coordination between all the authorities involved in these arrests, and a specialist from its European Migrant Smuggling Centre was deployed to the coordination centre in Germany to assist with the cross-checking of operational information.

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Europol’s operation Trivium: tackling mobile criminality

Between 13 and 16 April 2021, law enforcement authorities from 17 countries targeted mobile organised crime groups active across Europe as part of the latest edition of operation Trivium. The operation was coordinated by the Netherlands and supported by Europol, and is part of the EMPACT security initiative.

One objective of this year’s operation Trivium was to locate wanted convicts on the run for committing organised property crimes. Investigations during the operation identified the whereabouts of a number of these individuals.

In operation Trivium XIV, 17 countries target mobile criminal groups using the EU’s road infrastructure.

The coordinated actions led to:

• 228 arrests

• 70,000 persons checked

• 67,000 vehicles checked

• seizures including 88 vehicles, illegal substances and large amounts of cash.

During the operation, German authorities checked an individual suspected by Danish authorities to be linked to several robberies of GPS devices from agriculture machines. On checking his vehicle, the German officer discovered 30 GPS units from agricultural machines, approximately 100 kg of gold, silver and ivory jewellery, nearly 50 new high-end smartphones and 20 laptops. The suspect will be extradited to Denmark under a European Arrest Warrant.

A check by the Belgian authorities of a vehicle on a motorway parking led to the discovery and seizure of 380 kg of copper hidden in a nearby wood.

Launched in 2013, operation Trivium, focuses on using a multi-agency approach to tackle organised crime. The operation targets criminal networks using the EU’s road infrastructure to perpetrate different cross-border crimes through police checks. The joint police control actions hit criminal groups trying to stay under the radar of law enforcement authorities by being mobile and changing their modi operandi.

These activities based on a multi-agency approach enhance security on roads and contribute to increased trust and a feeling of safety in local communities.

*Participating countries: EU Member States: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and Cyprus.

• Non-EU country: Albania.

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The new policing bill and protests in England and Wales

The Police Bill in England and Wales is a huge piece of legislation that includes important government proposals on crime and justice. Part it covers changes to the regulations on demonstrations and protests.

Currently, if the police want to impose restrictions on a protest, generally speaking, they have to demonstrate that it could cause serious public disorder, serious property damage, or serious disruption to community life. They can also impose specific measures to control the routes taken by protest marches. When it comes to important events, these details are thrashed out by the organisers weeks in advance.

The prime minister is defending the policing bill amid criticism from MPs. How will the law change these powers? Police chiefs will have more power to impose more conditions on static protests. They will be able to dictate what time they start and finish, establish noise limitations, etc. If protesters refuse to comply with police instructions on conducting their protest, they could face a fine of up to £ 2,500.

The proposed law includes an offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance”. The bill is designed to prevent people from occupying public spaces, hanging from bridges, or using other protest tactics to make themselves seen and heard. A final measure introduces a potential ten-year prison sentence for people who criminally damage a memorial. Of note is the fact that the Labour Party is opposed to the proposed measures.

What else does the new legislation propose?

  • Changes to sentencing rules so that criminals spend more time in prison before being released on parole.
  • Allowing judges to consider life imprisonment for juvenile killers.
  • With regard to terrorism, increased powers to monitor criminals more closely after they’re released from prison.
  • Community service for less serious crimes to address underlying issues in the lives of offenders.
  • Changes to the Sexual Offences Act to extend the definition of ‘position of trust’ abuse to include other roles, such as sports coaches or religious figures.

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“Smart-policing project” introduced in Greece

Police in Greece are to be issued new devices that will allow them to carry out real-time facial recognition and fingerprint identification while out on the beat.

The plan to disseminate the new technology is part of the 4.5 million euros “Smart Policing” project announced in 2017 that aims to identify and verify the identity of citizens when stopped by the police. Most of the project costs (75%) are being covered by the Internal Security Fund (ISF) of the European Commission.

Currently, citizens who are not able to provide identification documents when stopped by the police in Greece have to be transferred to the nearest police station for their identity to be verified. By allowing identification in real-time, the new devices will make the identification of citizens more time-efficient.

The goal of the Greek police force is to verify individuals, vehicles and objects in real-time. Doing so will lead to improvements in police officers’ security, reduce inconveniences for civilians and save human and material resources.

Greek police will initially be issued at least 1,000 devices, with an option to deploy a further 9,000 by this summer if the scheme proves to be effective.

The devices, which are similar in appearance to smartphones, will be connected to 20 different databases belonging to international and national authorities, including the Greek Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Europol, the FBI, and Interpol.

In March last year, the Greek non-profit digital rights advocacy organisation, Homo Digitalis, filed a request to the Greek Data Protection Authority (DPA) expressing concern over the legality of the “Smart Policing” project.

Homo Digitalis argued that there is a strong possibility that the Greek police is violating EU laws regarding the processing of personal data laid out in the Greek Constitution, national laws linked to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

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