Investigation and Analysis of Organized Crime

About Us

InSight Crime is a foundation dedicated to the study of the principal threat to national and citizen security in Latin America and the Caribbean: Organized Crime.

Our Mission

We seek to deepen and inform the debate about organized crime in the region by providing the general public with regular reporting, analysis and investigation on the subject and on state efforts to combat it.
We fulfill this mission by:

  • providing high quality and timely analysis of news events linked to organized crime in the region;
  • investigating and writing reports on organized crime and its multiple manifestations, including its impact on human rights, governance, drug policy and other social, economic and political issues;
  • giving workshops to journalists, academics and non-governmental organizations on how to cover this important issue and keep themselves, their sources and their material safe;
  • supporting local investigators through these workshops and by publishing, translating and promoting their work to reach the widest possible audience;
  • developing a region-wide network of investigators looking at organized crime;
  • presenting in public and closed-door sessions to governments, non-governmental organizations, academics and stakeholders on best practices, strategies and pitfalls in implementing citizen security policy on the ground.

What Makes Us Different: InSight Crime is a hybrid: part media, part academia, part think tank. The founders are professional journalists, but it began under the auspices of Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP), a think tank in Bogotá, and with funding from the Open Society Foundations. In August 2010, American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) became a sponsor and additional host to the project, providing the academic component and combining three worlds that study and investigate organized crime but rarely have contact with one another.

We focus on one issue: organized crime in the Americas. In this, we set the standard, explaining who the groups are and the way they operate; connecting the illegal actors across borders; analyzing their modus operandi, forms of recruitment, and their political reach; explaining their ideologies and their ethos, their finances and their military tactics. We also dissect the governments’ efforts to combat this phenomenon. Using data culled from the ether and via our on-the-ground sources, we look for new ways of measuring success and failure, and ask the tough questions about the strategies past, present and future.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we monitor, analyze and investigate this issue from multiple perspectives. This includes going to the afflicted areas on a regular basis and seeing first hand this combustible situation; keeping in regular contact with sources on the ground and in law enforcement circles; monitoring press, academic, government and non-governmental studies on this issue. It’s from these multiple angles that we give you the most complete understanding of organized crime in the Americas and the state’s efforts to combat it.

InSight Crime will conduct its business honestly and ethically wherever we operate in the world. We will constantly improve the quality of our services, products and operations and will create a reputation for honesty, fairness, respect, responsibility, integrity, trust and sound business judgment.

Illegal or unethical conduct on the part of directors, staff, contractors, board members, interns or affiliates (henceforth contributors) is strictly forbidden. InSight Crime will not compromise its principles for short-term advantage. All contributors are expected to adhere to high standards of personal integrity.

Contributors of InSight Crime must never permit their personal interests to conflict, or appear to conflict, with the interests of the organization, its clients or affiliates. Contributors must be particularly careful to avoid representing InSight Crime in any transaction with others with whom there is any outside business affiliation or relationship. Contributors shall avoid using their organizational contacts to advance their private business or personal interests at the expense of InSight Crime, its clients or affiliates.

No bribes, kickbacks or other similar remuneration or consideration shall be given to any person or organization in order to attract or influence business activity. Contributors shall avoid gifts, gratuities, fees, bonuses or excessive entertainment aimed at attracting or influencing business.

Contributors of InSight Crime will often come into contact with, or have possession of, proprietary, confidential or security-sensitive information and must take appropriate steps to ensure that such information is strictly safeguarded.  Proprietary, confidential and sensitive information about InSight Crime, other organizations, individuals and entities should be treated with sensitivity and discretion and only be disseminated on a need-to-know basis.

Contributors will seek to report all information accurately and honestly, and as otherwise stipulated by applicable reporting requirements. Contributors will refrain from gathering intelligence by illegitimate means and refrain from acting on knowledge which has been gathered in such a manner.

Contributors will obey all equal employment opportunity laws and act with respect and responsibility towards others in all of their dealings.

Contributors will remain personally balanced so that their personal life will not interfere with their ability to deliver quality products or services to the company and its clients.

Contributors agree to disclose unethical, dishonest, fraudulent and illegal behavior, or the violation of company policies and procedures, directly to management.

Violation of this Code of Conduct and Ethics can result in discipline, including possible termination. The degree of discipline relates in part to whether there was a voluntary disclosure of any ethical violation and whether or not the violator cooperated in any subsequent investigation.

Our Projects

Every day, nearly every week of the year, we scour for news in the region and publish several News Briefs and News Analysis articles on our hallmark websites. Nearly every month, we publish special investigations based on our own in-country reporting and field research. We also publish and update profiles of countries, criminal organizations and personalities from around the region. The process is laborious and resource intensive, but it has helped create the most complete database on organized crime in the Americas. Search the Database

We produce special reports for both the public and private sectors on the dynamics of conflict and organized crime, and their effects on society, government, and business. The reports are based on our on-the-ground field research. Unlike many other think tanks which rely on open source material to compile their analysis, InSight Crime goes to the area and speaks to local stakeholders, government entities, international law enforcement and the criminals themselves. We have completed investigative projects in Colombia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia. If you are interested in seeing examples of our work or contracting us to write a report, please contact us.

Drawing from our own experience and current work, InSight Crime trains journalists and non-governmental organizations on how to cover organized crime, corruption and citizen security. The training — which normally include follow up sessions and virtual correspondence — can be broken down into the following sections:

  1. The process of deciding on a topic, doing the pre-investigation, doing the actual investigation, and how to think through the writing and presentation of this topic;
  2. How to develop these stories in written, graphic, and/or audiovisual form in order to maximize the use of online platforms to extend the life and reach of the project;
  3. How to maximize the reach of these projects via partnerships with other organizations (civil society organizations with media and vice-versa);
  4. How to minimize the risks for reporters, editors, investigators and subjects of the stories.

We have now created a detailed series of safety protocols that allow us and other investigators to operate in even the most hostile environments in the region. We have conducted workshops in Bolivia, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Paraguay. If you are interested in a workshop on one or all of these subjects, please contact us.

We provide assessment of state initiatives aimed at dismantling organized crime and enhancing citizen security. We give detailed analysis of the institutions in place to deal with issues of crime and governance and study the ways governments are implementing strategies and dividing up resources. We have carried out assessments in Colombia, Honduras and Mexico. If you are interested in seeing examples of our work or contracting the organization to assess your ongoing projects, please contact us.

Impact

InSight Crime reaches between 300,000 and 400,000 readers monthly on its websites and social media, many of whom are policymakers, risk analysts, academics, crime analysts, journalist and security force officials. Our greatest concentration of readers is in the Washington, DC area and other capital cities, speaking to the impact we have on policy and understanding of criminal dynamics. We interact constantly with the media both on a formal and informal basis, providing understanding and steering coverage of our topic. We do workshops throughout the region with journalists and NGOs. And we regularly speak in open- and closed-door settings with policy analysts, security forces, intelligence officials and many others, giving them a much needed outsider perspective.

In the News

The ‘BLO’ was known for its violence and corrupting reach, said Steven S. Dudley, co-director of Insight Crime, a think tank that studies organized crime in the Americas.

APR 05, 2017

‘The fact that [Trump] has described this gang as something that was created under the Obama administration is just one reflection of his absolute and complete ignorance when it comes to this group,’ said Steven Dudley, co-director of InSight Crime.

JUL 28, 2017

When a prison riot shook [Venezuela] in 2011, Mr. El Aissami responded by ceding more control to the restive gang leaders in an effort to end the rebellion,’ said Jeremy McDermott, director of InSight Crime.

FER 16, 2017

This is what makes the Los Cachiros case so interesting, because it’s a little window into the way organized crime and elites intersect in places like Honduras,’ said Steven Dudley, co-director of Insight Crime.

APR 02, 2017

For some context on how the gang began and spread, I talked to Hector Silva Avalos. He’s a research fellow at American University and spent 15 years as an investigative reporter in his native El Salvador.

APR 21, 2017

Deborah Bonello is a senior investigator at InSight Crime (...) Bonello leads its Venezuela program, and she spoke with WLRN’s Tim Padgett from Mexico City about the Lamas extradition and Venezuela’s spiraling crisis

JUL 10, 2017

The Team

The Directors

Steven Dudley, co-director and co-founder, head of research for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean: Dudley is a senior fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies in Washington DC. He is the former Bureau Chief of The Miami Herald in the Andean Region and the author of “Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia” (Routledge 2004). Dudley has also reported from Haiti, Brazil, Nicaragua, Cuba and Miami for National Public Radio and The Washington Post, among others… READ MORE

Jeremy McDermott is the Executive Director and co-founder of InSight Crime. He also leads the investigations and coverage of Panama, the Caribbean and South America (except Brazil) and manages the team, which is based primarily in Medellín, Colombia. McDermott has two decades of experience reporting from around Latin America. He is a former British Army officer, who saw active service in Northern Ireland and Bosnia. Upon retiring from the military he became a war correspondent, covering the Balkans, based in Bosnia, then the Middle East from… READ MORE

The Team

Our team is a multinational, multidisciplinary group of reporters, investigators and researchers in Colombia, Mexico and the United States. It is supported by an administrative core and a technical team in Colombia. The Board of Directors has members living in Colombia, Mexico and the United States. And it counts on support from its key partner organization, the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University, as well as its key funders, which include Open Society Foundations, the British Embassy in Colombia, the International Development Research Centre of Canada, and the Swedish government.

Meet the whole team

Contact Us

We interact with our readers and followers via email, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We do our best to answer your questions and absorb your criticism and commentary. We are constantly learning with help from you, our readers.

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