Haitian police break up kidnapping rings and improve public safety
By Dialogo April 07, 2014
Haitian security forces made significant progress against kidnapping rings during the last four months of 2013, authorities said.
From January to the end of September 2013, Haitian National Police (HNP) agents arrested 15 kidnapping suspects, according to published reports. From October through the end of December, police captured 72 kidnapping suspects, a five-fold increase.
The number of kidnappings in Haiti decreased significantly in 2013, authorities said. In 2010, authorities recorded 121 abductions in Haiti. In 2013, authorities recorded 72 kidnappings.
Security forces have continued to make significant progress against alleged kidnappers in 2014.
For example, on March 12, 2014, a group of police officers dismantled the gang known as Base Galil, which was linked to at least 18 kidnappings in recent months. The gang collected about $2 million (USD) in ransom for those abductions, authorities said. The gang operated just north of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
Cooperation with a police officer from the United States has played an important role in the progress Haitian authorities have made against kidnapping rings. Haitian and U.S. authorities are cooperating in the fight against organized crime, primarily by sharing information.
Robert Arce, a veteran police officer from the United States, worked with the Haitian National Police to fight kidnapping. Arce has more than 20 years of experience investigating kidnappings. He has worked with authorities fighting human trafficking and kidnapping in Mexico, Bosnia, and Iraq. Arce has also worked in the Antilles, where he helped security forces in that country “turn the tide on kidnappings,” according to a report published on March 5, 2014 in the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) blog “No Fear”.
Arce served as an anti-kidnapping advisor for Haiti’s National Police under the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) from August 2012 to December 2013.
Arce worked with an HNP anti-kidnapping unit that operates under the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ). The DCPJ recently sent some of its best officers to receive training in tactical operations and intelligence analysis in Colombia.
Working together, the HNP and Arce developed a strategy to fight kidnapping more effectively. The strategy involves using cellphone records to track kidnapping suspects, and developing stronger ties between police officers and the community, so residents will be more willing to provide information to law enforcement agents.
To help track cell phone calls, Haitian security forces purchased device which triangulates the origin of cellphone calls. The Stingray device cost $300,000 (USD).
Working with the community and the press
Haitian police officers and Arce worked hard to win the trust of the community. They spent countless hours talking to residents, and watched TV news shows to assess Arce and his team won the trust of the community. They worked closely with the people, spent hours talking to residents, and monitored Haitian TV stations and programs to assess the public’s willingness to cooperate with police investigations.
Brunel Bienvenu, a Haitian-American police officer, worked closely with Arce. Bienvenu convinced local TV and radio news stations to create a 24-hour hotline which people could call to provide information about kidnappings.
The hotline did not receive many calls at first. But as time went on and Haitian police gained the trust of the community, the hotline received more calls.
Phone companies in Haiti are not required to share call records with security forces. Haitian police worked with the companies to develop methods to trace phone calls made by kidnapping suspects.
Arrests of kidnappers
The new strategy has helped security forces capture dozens of kidnappers.
For example, on the night of March 21, 2013, at least 12 armed men entered the home of Pastor Patrick Villier, in the capitol city of Port-au-Prince. Villier was known for helping victims of the 2010 earthquake which devastated Por-au-Prince. The gang kidnapped Viller’s 12-year-old son. Police later found the boy’s body in a remote area of the city. He had been shot in the head.
Working with information provided by the public, police arrested seven suspects, including the alleged killer.
Within Port-au-Prince, kidnappers often operate in the Cité Soleil, Cité Militaire, and Bel Air neighborhoods. Kidnappers often transport victims in trucks or SUVs, while wielding high-powered firearms, La Razón reported.
A strategy that is showing results
The strategy Haitian police and Arce have developed is improving security, said Daniel Matul Romero, a security analyst at the University of Costa Rica.
“The model that the U.S. police officer and his group have implemented is still operating in Haiti because it is an intelligence action that has shown results,” Matul Romero said.
“The security situation can be described as relatively stable, which is also the result of better performance of the HNP. Between 2012 and 2013, there was a decrease by 21 and 53 percent, respectively, in the number of killings and kidnappings reported,” Sandra Honoré, the leader of MINUSTAH, told reporters on March 21, 2014.
Kidnapping a ‘gang activity’: analyst
Kidnappings in Haiti are often committed by gangs, Matul Romero said. Some Haitian gangs have formed alliances with transnational criminal organizations based in Mexico and Colombia, the security analyst said. The Sinaloa Cartel, led by kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is among the organized crime groups suspected of having alliances with Haitian gangs. Mexican security forces captured El Chapo on Feb. 22, 2014.
Haitian gangs see kidnapping as a way to make quick money, the security analyst said. Kidnappers sometimes rape women victims, and often kill whoever they abduct, Matul Romero said.
“The harshness of the kidnappings that occur in Haiti is similar to the express kidnappings in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Guatemala,” Matul Romero said
A need for continued vigilance
The HNP has about 10,000 officers. The government hopes to add another 5,000 officers to the HNP by 2016. About 2,440 UN police officers are part of the HNP, which was created in 1995. The UN has been recruiting Creole-speaking police officers of Haitian descent from Canada and the United States.
There are 10 million people in Haiti.. The country has a population of 10 million people. The HNP was created in 1995.
The HNP must continue to be vigilant in fighting kidnapping and other crimes, Matul Romero said.
“The challenge for security forces is to be alert to outbreaks of violence in some neighborhoods, especially the poorest, where more than half of the abductions and murders reported take place. The police need more technological tools in the fight against crime,” according to Matul Romero.
What the Haitian police is doing is valued. They are doing a wonderful jobs, keeping everyone safe, god bless haiti. Me encanta esa estrategia para capturar al secuestrador