Kidnappings rose by 50 percent in Argentina's Buenos Aires province between 2013 and 2014, a trend that appears to be fueled in part by the participation of corrupt active and former police officers.
A total of 78 kidnappings were reported in Buenos Aires province in 2014, compared to 52 the year before, according to statistics from the provincial Attorney General's Office accessed by Clarin. Over the past two months, eight more kidnappings have been reported, at least three of which investigators believe were carried out by a sophisticated criminal group allegedly made up of current and former police officers.
Meanwhile, six former federal police officers are currently on trial for allegedly running an extortion network in neighboring Cordoba province. The group -- which called itself "The Millionaire Club" -- allegedly threatened business owners with kidnappings and arbitrary detentions if they refused to pay monthly quotas. Both the former commissioner of the federal police delegation in Cordoba and his third in command are among the accused.
InSight Crime Analysis
The kidnapping figures provide some evidence of what has long appeared to be a growing problem in Argentina. However, these numbers likely fail to illustrate the full scope of the problem, as many kidnapping cases go unreported or are classified as another type of crime, according to Clarin. For example, kidnappings in Buenos Aires often begin as car robberies and morph into kidnappings if the perpetrators perceive the victim as being wealthy. These types of "express" kidnappings are therefore frequently reported by police as "robberies followed by illegal deprivation of liberty".
The alleged participation of police in kidnappings further complicates this situation, increasing the risk of impunity, as police can use their law enforcement contacts to ensure crimes are not investigated or prosecuted. Criminals with a police background also have the ability to employ sophisticated tactics that decrease the probability of detection, as seen by a recent case in which a businessman was allegedly kidnapped by current and former police who forced him to remain barefoot in order to keep traces of their hideouts from ending up on his shoes.
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Other examples of alleged police participation in Argentine organized crime abound. A journalistic investigation conducted in 2014 revealed the alleged involvement of Buenos Aires police in burglaries and other criminal activities, while widespread corruption has forced provincial authorities to purge thousands of police officers in recent years. In addition, a large number of the individuals prosecuted for belonging to a drug trafficking organization known as Los Monos -- one of Argentina's most significant homegrown groups -- were police and members of other security forces.
Security force involvement in kidnappings has been seen elsewhere in the region. In Colombia, a criminal network that sold hostages to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) included several current and former police officers. Similarly, a 2011 InSight Crime investigation in Venezuela found that up to 70 percent of kidnappings in Caracas were carried out by members of the now disbanded metropolitan police force.