Costa Rican Security Forces Deploy Armored Vehicle to Fight Organized Crime
By Dialogo September 18, 2015
The Costa Rican Judicial Investigation Department’s (OIJ) Special Tactical Response Service (SERT) (Spanish acronyms) is using an armored vehicle to assist security forces in carrying out high-risk tasks.
The truck, a 2015 Ford F-350, holds up to 17 people, and it's fully armored to protect against high-caliber weapons -- much like those used by elite Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) police teams in the United States.
“The vehicle, which has been nicknamed ‘The Beast,’ will protect the SERT tactical group and will be used to transport dangerous criminals and drugs seized by security forces,” OIJ Internal Managing Director Gerald Campos Valverde told Diálogo
during an interview.
That group, the Costa Rican police's specialized support unit, intervenes in high-risk situations, such as hostage situations, kidnappings, the detention of highly dangerous criminals, police raids, searches, and the tracking of fugitives. They also transport drugs from storage facilities to the incineration plant in the city of Cartago, in the country’s central region.
Protection for elite SERT officers
“This first vehicle is a high-tech tool that will provide protection for the 24 members of the elite SERT group during high-risk operations and against attacks by heavy weapons such as the AK-47s used by organized crime groups,” Campos said.
“It’s not a Military vehicle with Military weapons. It is a response vehicle for a civil judicial police force. This fully armored vehicle will be critically important in the areas of conflict within Costa Rica. The need for an armored vehicle arose because we have carried out several different transfers that require a higher level of security. This car puts the SERT in an advantageous situation.”
In particular, SERT agents will be able to conduct operations in even more dangerous areas thanks to the vehicle's armored plates, which makes it almost impenetrable. It retains some of its original parts, including the chassis, dashboard, motor, and the front seats, but the rest has been modified. Costa Rican company Blintec up-armored the vehicle, which it expects to be in service for five years as it helps police deploy agents safely in their battle against criminal groups who have increased their operations in the downtown areas of the capital and parts of the country’s Caribbean coastal region in the past few years.
Even before the addition, Campos explained, the SERT as a force to be reckoned with; but the new vehicle will only help tactical police agents to “strike accurate and decisive blows against international and local criminal organizations.”
“In many of the high-risk operations performed by the SERT in dangerous locations, there has been 100 percent effectiveness without a single casualty.”
Costa Rican police fight drug trafficking
Drug trafficking, often carried out by many narco-traffickers from Colombia, is one of the major criminal activities Costa Rican police confront in these areas. Both transnational criminal organizations and individual criminals operate in the country, where they place orders for South American cocaine that they will transport to other destinations -- primarily the U.S. and Europe.
This type of illegal enterprise is described in the 2013 Costa Rica Situation Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, titled “Drug Trafficking and the Threat of Organized Crime." But Costa Rican police is confronting evolving illegal enterprises.
“Central America has become an enormous service station” for criminal groups, while local organized crime groups generate revenue by laundering drug money, Matúl explained.