Argentina’s problem with kidnappings for ransom is presided over by UFESE, the Prosecution Unit Specialising in Extortive Kidnappings. UFESE was created last June by Alejandra Gils Carbó and is headed by Federal Prosecutor Santiago Marquevich. The Unit divides its work into two areas: firstly the provision of judicial assistance, and the second being institutional relations, criminal analysis and tool development. UFESE has recently released figures on kidnappings for ransom nationwide.
In the first three months of 2017, there were 77 kidnappings for ransom. This is an increase compared to the same period last year, which saw 71 instances of the crime; however, it’s an overall decrease since 2015, when there were 86 in the first three months of the year. Of the 77, 27 cases took place in March this year. Ten were in the West Zone of Greater Buenos Aires, under the jurisdiction of the Public Prosecutor for Morón; Capital Federal saw 7, and the Lomas de Zamora district 5. UFESE also provides statistics on the locations of the crimes. In the Lomas de Zamora and Morón districts, most kidnappings took place in residential areas with little traffic, but near to major avenues and freeways. In Capital, the areas by General Paz, 25 de Mayo and Juan B Justo Avenues saw the most activity.
The second half of last year saw 115 cases of extortive kidnappings across the country, with Lomas de Zamora and Morón the worst areas, both surpassing Capital Federal and together making up 65% of the instances nationwide. The national figure for this period marks a decrease from the same period in 2015, when there were 42 more cases. Of the 115, 80% of investigated cases ended in a rescue payment being made. The actual kidnappings were generally short: 41% lasted between 1-2 hours, with a further 33% lasting for four. The criminals usually acted in small groups, with 84% of cases involving teams of fewer than three people. Very few victims were taken to buildings: 95% were taken to vehicles belonging to the kidnappers, with the negotiations being done from the victim’s own phone. In 67% of cases, victims were male; 89% were adults; 72% of cases involved a single victim, and 51% of kidnappings took place between the hours of 8pm and midnight.