Gangs in Brazil are launching highly coordinated hit and run attacks on small-town banks, demonstrating new levels of organization and sophistication.
The modus operandi goes something like this: a group heavily armed with guns and explosives, all dressed in black with their faces covered, descend on small towns selected for their low numbers of police and geographical isolation, reported Estadao.
On arrival, one faction of the gang seals off access to the town with barricades and keeps police pinned down with gunfire. Meanwhile, the other faction targets banks, stealing from ATM machines and vaults using explosives stolen from quarries and construction sites. The raids usually last less than half an hour, meaning by the time police have sought out reinforcements, the gang has already left town.
There have been numerous killings related to the gangs, including a botched robbery in Itamonte in the state of Minas Gerais last week, which saw ten people killed -- nine gang members and one hostage.
Gangs involved in the crime, which is known as "New Cangaco," after the 19th century Cangaco "social bandits," appear to be proliferating. Cases have now been registered in São Paulo and the neighboring states of Minas Gerais and Parana, the western states of Acre and Rondonia, and in the northeastern states of Maranhão and Ceara.
Investigators in São Paulo told Estadao the proceeds from some of these attacks help fund prison gang turned transnational drug traffickers, the First Capital Command (PCC).
InSight Crime Analysis
The planning, equipment and coordination required to carry off heists such as these demonstrate a level of sophistication and operational capacity that surpasses your standard bank robbery.
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While the fact that robberies have been spreading through neighboring states suggests these gangs are willing to travel in the search of suitable targets. The fact that they are now surfacing in geographically distinct regions may be indicative of diverse criminal groups learning from the tactics of others.
Reports suggest the cells usually consist of no more than 30 people, and the majority would appear not to be acting on the orders of any larger organized crime groups. However, if as suggested by the São Paulo investigators, the PCC is involved, this would be a cause for concern, as it would not only provide them with another source of revenue but also access to well-armed, violent gangs capable of carrying out coordinated operations across the country.