Authorities display weapons seized in Cúcuta

Police investigations into two gun rental outlets in a Colombian border city highlight how rented firearms benefit criminal groups in the nation.

In February 2016, police seized weapons and munitions from two alleged gun rental outlets in Cúcuta, Colombia, a city known as a stronghold for criminal groups and contraband trafficking.

According to Cúcuta Metropolitan Police (Policía Metropolitana de Cúcuta) Chief Jaime Barrera, a revolver could be rented for 100,000 Colombian pesos (about $30) at the outlets, reports La Opinion.

In the first rental locale, police found three revolvers, various munitions, and drug packaging supplies. According to the police, the location was used by a criminal group that stole cars and robbed people in Cúcuta.

The seized weapons will undergo a ballistic analysis to determine if they were used in recent homicides in the city.

At the second rental operation, police seized nine revolvers, three pistols, and a rifle, along with munitions.

This rental locale was used by the criminal bands (BACRIM) Clan Úsuga or the Urabeños and the Rastrojos, in addition to the guerrilla groups the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional - ELN) and the Popular Liberation Army (Ejercito Popular de Liberacion – EPL), reported La Opinion.

According to authorities, this rental center was also used as a stop-off point for weapons that the Rastrojos would later smuggle to another city in Norte de Santander department.

InSight Crime Analysis

The use of gun rentals by criminal groups is relatively common in Colombia, where there are a reported 2.5 million illegal firearms in circulation.

In 2015, gun rentals in Baranquilla allegedly cost upwards of 100,000 Colombian pesos ($30) a day. In Bogota in 2015, gun rentals were reportedly more expensive, at 300,000-500,000 Colombian pesos ($90 - $150) daily.

     SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

Rental guns are used for home and business robberies, and for riskier crimes like bank robberies and murders for hire. According to Semana, this is a particularly hard phenomenon for police to track because rental operations generally have relatively small quantities of weapons that are easy to hide. Additionally, linking the weapons to a crime is challenging because the same weapon could be used by multiple people over a short span of time. 

The use of rented firearms to commit crimes has also been reported in other countries in the region, including Mexico, but has not been so commonly reported in the Northern Triangle (Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala), where homicide rates are some of the highest in the world. 

It remains to be seen if Colombia's new efforts to ban the carrying of firearms in 2016 will reduce the profitability and use of rental weapons.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy. Unlike their paramilitary and drug cartel predecessors, the BACRIM maintain a diversified...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...