Authorities in Argentina are to create a special police unit following a wave of high-profile express kidnappings -- including the abduction of Argentine soccer star Carlos Tevez's father -- highlighting concern over the growing sophistication of local organized crime.
The governor of the province of Buenos Aires plans to create a special police unit dedicated to preventing and resolving kidnapping cases, reported Clarin.
The announcement came days after the July 29 kidnapping of Segundo Tevez -- the father of soccer player Carlos Tevez -- during a vehicle robbery. Tevez was freed five hours later, after his family paid a ransom of close to $50,000.
The next day, two businessmen were kidnapped in separate incidents and held for a period of several hours. One of the victims was the brother of the head of the Citrus Federation in the neighboring province of Entre Rios. He was released after his family paid over $20,000. Another three kidnappings were reported to police during the same week, according to Clarin.
According to La Nacion, 71 express kidnappings have been reported in the western suburbs of Buenos Aires so far this year, compared to 51 reported in all of 2013.
InSight Crime Analysis
Over the past few years, Argentina has played an increasing role in the drug trade, both as a transit and consumer country, and this has led to the growth and expansion of local criminal groups, which are becoming ever more violent.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina
The recent kidnappings provide another indication of the growing sophistication of such homegrown networks. According to La Nacion, the organizations responsible for most of the kidnappings in western Buenos Aires carry out logistically sophisticated operations. They reportedly transfer victims into different cars during the abduction and move them constantly, listening to police radio frequencies to evade capture and taking measures to avoid having their calls traced.
As local criminal organizations evolve, Argentina is likely to see this sort of diversification of criminal interests, as has happened in countries such as Mexico and Colombia, where organizations that began in the drug trade have expanded into other activities such as kidnapping and extortion. There have already been signs of this happening; for example in the city of Rosario, the Los Monos drug gang already engages in other criminal activities including hired assassinations, money laundering and extortion in addition to micro-trafficking.