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Argentina’s Police Out Against Crime Wave

November 3, 2003

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ The governor of Argentina’s largest province on Monday ordered 3,300 more police officers into the streets to stem crime sweeping the suburbs of Buenos Aires.

The area surrounding the capital has been wracked by a recent surge of carjackings, ransom kidnappings and daring daylight robberies that prompted a protest by thousands of Argentines across Buenos Aires.

Felipe Sola, the governor of Buenos Aires province, reassigned police doing desk jobs and other non-patrol work, sending them to staff new beats in several hard-hit neighborhoods. Officers in those areas will carry cellular phones that residents can call to report crimes.

On Friday, President Nestor Kirchner called for new reforms to stamp out corruption within the provincial police, the country’s largest force with 47,000 officers responsible for the security of 8 million Argentines.

``Argentines are waiting for a deep purifying of the provinical police,″ he said.

On Friday, thousands of Argentines banged pots and pans on street corners and apartment balconies across the capital in protest rampant crime. Hundreds more gathered outside the presidential compound.

Many expressed outrage over a highly publicized case in which a man was kidnapped and one of his severed fingers sent to his family along with a ransom demand. He is still being held.

Government statistics show that more than 184 kidnappings were reported in Buenos Aires province since January. Bank heists, street holdups and taxi cab robberies also have made daily headlines since the country’s economy unraveled in 2001.

Alex Zunca, a security consultant in Maryland who has helped train Argentine police, questioned whether the increased number of officers would help improve security.

``Security is based on quality and not on the quantity of officers on the streets,″ he said, adding that officers needed better training.

He described crime in Argentina as ``overwhelming″ and ``getting out of hand.″

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