Archive for category Crime

Film: Sicario

This looks good. I have written in the past about the brutality of the drug war in Mexico, and the all out warfare that the cartels conduct against one another. Finally it looks like Hollywood is willing to go down south and explore this brutality. The director is Denis Villeneuve and his work is pretty intense.

The film will be in theaters September 18, 2015 and it will star Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber and Jon Bernthal. It has already shown in the Cannes Film Festival and it did really well. –Matt



Website for the film here.

In Mexico, SICARIO means hitman.

In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent [Emily Blunt] is enlisted by an elite government task force official [Josh Brolin] to aid in the escalating war against drugs.

Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past [Benicio Del Toro], the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive.

A Lionsgate presentation, a Black Label Media presentation, a Thunder Road production, a Denis Villeneuve film.

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Publications: Sandia Report Draws Lessons Learned From 23 ‘Perfect Heists’

Deception, patience are common ingredients
While methods and implementation of the heists varied greatly, there were common factors. At least one form of deception was used in 21 of the heists, ranging from impersonating law enforcement to use of decoy vehicles to concealing surveillance equipment. Insiders — willing, unwitting and coerced — played a role in the majority of cases. The Antwerp Diamond Center’s building manager even provided blueprints to the heist mastermind, thinking he was just another tenant.
“I learned from this study that these thieves have a lot of patience. Most spent months and even years planning. They were very deliberate in how they defeated security measures and those methods were often very low-tech, like using hair spray to disable infrared sensors,” said Lafleur. “In most of these heists, multiple security measures were defeated.”
Another finding is that weapons aren’t needed to steal a lot of money. Four of the top five heists, in terms of value, were weaponless.

For obvious reasons, this report will have immense value for those out there that are in the business of countering this kind of crime. There is such a thing as the perfect heist, and this is an excellent study of those types of heists.  I was particularly interested in the lessons learned aspect of the report.

In it, they listed 44 items of interest for security professionals. They also described the average successful criminal. Here is a snippet.

Several key lessons are identified in each focus area, and an overview of the commonalities and bounds of criminal team characteristics and capabilities is provided. In brief, the typical criminal is a 30-39 year old man and experienced career criminal who is native to the country whose valuables he is targeting. The typical on-scene criminal team consists of 2-8 accomplices, typically perpetrating the robbery as a single team, although breaking into multiple sub-teams is not uncommon. Use of weapons is typical but in many cases not required for success. Thieves are willing to devote substantial resources to planning, spending in some cases more than two years, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and procuring transportation for thousands of pounds of loot. Thieves are frequently thorough and innovative in their planning, developing security defeat methods that are physically simple but highly targeted toward vulnerabilities the thieves have identified in advance of the heist. In the identification and exploitation of these vulnerabilities, deceptions and insiders almost always play a role. Multiple insiders, unwillingly or willingly colluding, are not uncommon; and while insiders span a variety of origins and roles, by far the most common type is the coerced insider who unwillingly assists in the crime, often upon threat of losing his own life or the lives of his family members.

That is some serious patience and ‘know your enemy, know yourself’ stuff there. The use of insiders, willing or not, is also very interesting.

Now what this report did not include was the vast group of criminals that absolutely need to be studied in Russia, South Asia, East Asia and Australia. It would also be helpful for them to go older than the 1970’s, but at least they have a good smattering of successful modern day heists. Here is a quote.

This expansion might continue to track down details of thefts that commonly make published lists of top heists, or it might take the direction of purposefully widening the scope geographically (e.g., to include heists in Russia, South Asia, East Asia, and Australia) and temporally (e.g., to include heists prior to the 1970s, perhaps as far back as the early 1900s, or farther back to the 1800s or even 1700s) to ensure the representation of a greater diversity of criminal methods and techniques in the data.

Check it out and this thing is filled with the good stuff. –Matt

Read the report here.




Sandia report draws lessons learned from ‘perfect heists’ for national security
August 19, 2014
In 2003, the unthinkable happened at Belgium’s Antwerp Diamond Center. Thieves broke into its reputedly impenetrable vault and made off with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds, gold, cash and other valuables.
Through years of meticulous planning, they got past police officers less than 200 feet away, access controls into the building, a combination-and-key-lock vault door, a magnetic seal on the vault door and motion, infrared, light and seismic detectors within the vault.
The Antwerp Diamond Center theft and other sophisticated, high-value heists show that motivated criminals can find ways to overcome every obstacle between them and their targets. Can the Energy and Defense departments, responsible for analyzing, designing and implementing complex systems to protect vital national security assets, learn from security failures in the banking, art and jewelry worlds?
Read the rest of this entry »

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Cool Stuff: Surviving An Active Shooter Event Video Goes Viral

A big hat tip to Matt for sending me this video. This thing was actually made before the Aurora Colorado shooting, so it’s timing was not planned. Either way, it is some great information for the public. (City of Houston put it together)

Now of course my readership tends to be more security related, but I also have a significant readership that is not. Most importantly though is that the security related readership here can take this video and spread it around in their networks. They can actually show a client this video, and then they can have a discussion about it.

The other point that needs to be made is that these active shooter incidents happen very fast. Lots of damage and killing happens within a very short period of time, and law enforcement is often not able to respond fast enough because of this factor. Logic says that the only thing that is going to save the people caught in the attack, are the people themselves. Videos like this will give people the kind of knowledge they need to survive such an incident, or at least give them better odds at survival.

We also need to emphasize the correct mindsets to have.  You would hope that there would be a few folks in a crowd that will step up and take out the shooter. But sometimes that is not the case, and because these incidents are so fast and lethal, that some folks are not able to think through the problem fast enough to win. The Run Hide Fight concept is a good one, because it addresses the diversity of a crowd and each person’s ‘fight or flight’ response. It is an easy set of decisions to keep in mind, with Running being the top.

It is also smart to keep people moving so a shooter has a harder time killing them. If people stop and curl up on the ground in a ball, thinking that will protect them, they are wrong. If people are moving, they are a harder target. Just think of this one–in the 2008 Mumbai attack in India, those terrorists used rifles to kill most of their victims. (164 killed, 308 wounded) In this Aurora killing, a rifle was used to do most of the killing. To hit a moving target is much harder than hitting a stationary target, so it needs to be emphasized that people need to get moving.

So running is a good option–or basically keep moving to escape and survive. If there is no escape, then hiding (hopefully within some cover) or fighting are your next best options. (this is for those who are not security folks). If you are a sheepdog type (military, veterans, police, security contractor, empowered citizen, etc.) then stop that shooter!! End it by any means necessary and solve the problem immediately.

Pretty cool and I certainly hope it saves some lives. It is also an excellent training tool that companies and security professionals can pass around and talk about. Knowledge is power, and stuff like this empowers the people. –Matt

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Crime: Santa Muerte Or The Saint Of Death, Has A Following Among Criminals

This is a great report on the significance of Santa Muerte to criminals. She is definitely spiritual enemy number one! –Matt


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Crime: Politics And The Drug War In Latin America

In South America, the balloon effect has coincided with another phenomenon: The rise of a generation of populist leaders who view U.S. antidrug efforts as a version of the “Yankee imperialism” they disdain.
Both Venezuela’s Mr. Chavez and Bolivia’s Mr. Morales built support among mostly poor populations as staunchly anti-U.S. leaders. They describe the drug war as a facade for a strategy to control the region’s politics and natural resources, especially oil.
Mr. Chavez and other leaders say they are fighting drug trafficking. But in Venezuela, thwarting U.S. drug efforts appears to be a cause for promotion. In 2008, the U.S. declared Venezuelan Gen. Henry Rangel Silva a drug “kingpin.” This month, Mr. Chavez named Gen. Rangel defense minister.

Imagine this. Several large coca producing countries have leaders that were elected based on their ‘support for coca farming’, and one country elects leaders that were financed and influenced by drug cartels. And then you have multiple countries that dislike the US and try to interpret the drug war to their people as some form of ‘Yankee Imperialism’.  That to me is like the perfect alignment of events to create not just Narco States, but Narco Coalitions. The combining of states that produce the drugs with states that distribute them, all with the intent of pushing those drugs into the US and world and lining the pockets of politicians and cartels. It sounds like a premise in some crazy far out crime/war movie, all wrapped up with ‘world domination’. lol

Except in this case, it is a very plausible scenario and parts of it have already come true. In the articles below, they discuss how vulnerable Mexico’s political process is to cartel influence. The second one talks about how both Peru and Bolivia have seen a huge increase in coca production, all because they have leaders who were elected based on their pro-coca farming views. Ecuador and Venezuela gets a mention because they are all about supporting the drug trade as well. So chalk those countries as lost to the narcos….

As for Mexico, who knows if Calderon can keep his presidency? The cartels are doing all they can to work against him and his party at the local levels, and they are easily using the rules of insurgency to do so. From assassination, to bribes, to kidnapping, to voter intimidation, etc. The cartels are also using media and any other angle to get the public to reject Calderon’s war against the cartels.

Finally, the thing that I am most interested in is how will the US and the rest of the world react to such a Narco Coalition, if Mexico falls? What is the strategy to counter these narco insurgencies, and what does victory or defeat look like in the context of a drug war like this? –Matt


Bolivian President Evo Morales, holding coca leaves in 2009, built a political movement by demonstrating against the drug police. He has named coca growers to law-enforcement posts -- including drug czar.

Mexico’s 2012 vote is vulnerable to narco threat
“We cannot allow organized crime to decide at the ballot box,” said Josefina Vazquez Mota, a leading contender to be the 2012 presidential candidate of the National Action Party (PAN), which ended 71 years of PRI-party rule with Vicente Fox’s election in 2000.
Mexican presidents are limited to one six-year term, and the PAN held on to power in 2006 with Calderon’s narrow win over leftist challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who will top the ticket for the Democratic Revolutionary Party, or PRD, again in 2012.
This time around, analysts expect PAN candidates to be hobbled by public dissatisfaction with Calderon’s military offensive against the drug cartels. At least 50,000 people have been killed since he took office in December 2006, and gangland violence has spread misery to parts of the country that were previously considered safe.
Outdated election laws
Calderon has angered rival lawmakers by suggesting that a presidential victory by PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto would represent a capitulation to the criminals. But many Mexicans seem nostalgic for the relative tranquility of life under the PRI, whose network of patronage and corruption once kept organized crime in check.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mexico: The Gun Trucks Of The Cartels–Mexico Is Iraq!

The army has confiscated 100 “narco-trucks” in Tamaulipas, reports El Universal. As the video shows, these are vehicles built to withstand serious offensive warfare. Armored car sales in Mexico rose 20 percent last year, according to Reuters, as upper class families sought ways to protect themselves from kidnapping and attacks. It is possible that criminal groups also contributed to the sales boom. The fact that gangs like the Zetas are buying Level 5 bulletproof cars, then further modifying them to better accommodate snipers, is an indication of how brutal the war in Tamaulipas has become.

Anyone reading this that has worked in Iraq, has probably seen a vehicle like the Granite APC or similar armored vehicle rolling around. Companies bought armored vehicles, or contractors within the companies up-armored their soft-skin vehicles from scratch to help survive the IED threats in Iraq.  So when we see the same kind of vehicles in Mexico, this is familiar to contractors and the military.

It also indicates the scale of the war down there. Mexico is looking just like Iraq back in the day. I am sure the IED threat is a concern of the cartels as well–hence why armored cars like this makes sense. These vehicles are also purpose built for not only the defense, but offense and the ingenuity of design will probably reflect those purposes. Mind you, this is on the border with the US, and not some middle east country far far away… –Matt

One of the many gun trucks of the cartels. This is Mexico, and not Iraq....

Granite APC "the Rock" built on a Ford F-550 chassis, used in Iraq.


Video: Narco-Trucks Ready for War in Mexico

Thursday, 14 April 2011
Written by  Elyssa Pachico
The armored cars Mexican gangs use to do battle in the contested state of Tamaulipas are increasingly technologically sophisticated, equipped with sniper platforms and James Bond-style gadgets.
A video produced by newspaper El Universal surveys vehicles that the military has seized from the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel in the northern state, which is one of the most violent in Mexico.
The cars range from crude imitations of tanks to SUVs capable of stopping rounds from M-16 and AK-47s. Gunmen are shying away from using flashy, luxury cars, El Universal reports, opting instead for steel-plated vehicles more fit for combat, in some cases, than those used by the military. Read the rest of this entry »

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