Authorities in El Salvador seized 500 fake police uniforms that may have been intended for use as disguises for gang members, as clashes between the country's street gangs and security forces intensify.
Members of El Salvador's national civilian police force (PNC) confiscated the counterfeit uniforms in a clothing factory in capital city San Salvador, reported La Prensa Grafica. A local citizen notified authorities of the illegal fabrication of the police gear, reported La Pagina.
Authorities are investigating the owners of the factory, whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Police officials told La Prensa Grafica they have received information that individuals who appeared to be gang affiliated were previously seen leaving the factory with an unidentified number of uniforms. One police source said gang members could be using the uniforms to extort, rob or commit other types of crimes "in the name of the PNC."
InSight Crime Analysis
The large number of fake uniforms found by authorities indicates Salvadoran criminal groups could be looking for new ways to avoid detection as they ramp up attacks against rival gangs and security forces following the breakdown of the country's gang truce. At least 26 gang members were caught attempting to infiltrate Salvadoran security forces in the first four months of 2014 alone, and criminals in El Salvador have been known to wear fake or stolen police uniforms while committing crimes, including homicide.
The uniform seizures are also disconcerting given the recent authorization by the director of the PNC for police to shoot at criminals whenever deemed necessary. The combination of rising gang violence, criminals disguised as police, corruption among the country's law enforcement, and officers with near carte blanche to fire at criminals could further destabilize the security situation in El Salvador, which registered one of Latin America's highest homicide rates last year.
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Although criminals in El Salvador have donned fake police uniforms in the past, it is perplexing why so many outfits were produced in the factory where the recent seizure took place when a smaller number would seemingly be sufficient for any street gang. It is possible whoever was running the factory was supplying multiple criminal groups with uniforms.