Police in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina lose a firearm every 48 hours, according to a report from a government commission, further damaging the credibility of a police force beset by years of allegations of impropriety.
Based on statistics from the Ministry of Security, the Provincial Memory Commission (Comision Provincial por la Memoria – CPM) found that over 900 firearms disappeared in the last five years from the Buenos Aires provincial police, La Nacion reported.
At official exchange rates, the value for a typical police pistol is around $740, a large windfall for potential black-market sellers. While the vast majority of guns are reportedly stolen from officers, brazen criminals have also broken into police stations and looted weapons caches. In October 2014, for instance, one group forced open a police armory and made off with guns, ammunition, and bulletproof vests while officers were out “patrolling the streets,” according to La Nacion.
In 38 percent of gun disappearances, officers were off-duty and the loss or theft happened at home or from a vehicle. The revelations prompted Buenos Aires Security Minister Alejandro Granados to commit to reducing the number of “idle” firearms available to police, according to La Nacion. If more lethal force is necessary, only specially trained units will have access to heavier weaponry, Granados added.
Provincial police have gone on the defensive since the CPM’s report. Internal Affairs auditor Viviana Arcidiacono told La Nacion that with 50,000 officers on the streets, the number of missing weapons “is not so big.” She also said the penalties for losing a weapon are high, so officers are very careful.
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The CPM report further damages the credibility of the provincial police, which has undergone years of restructuring and purges of thousands of corrupt officers. These same police have been accused of acting more like a “mafia” than a police force, due to allegations of brutality and corruption within the ranks.
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But losing firearms is not unique to the provincial police. In 2012, a government report found the armed forces lost 400 firearms in a two-year period, including some heavy weaponry that later turned up in Brazil.
In regards to the CPM report, police cited by La Nacion think the weapons may end up on the black market in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, which have higher rates of violence than the city.
Still, the number of lost and stolen police weapons is a drop in the bucket when compared to the estimated number of illegal firearms in Argentina, which ranges from 700,000 to 2 million.
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