Mexico Security Summary for July 2016
Date of Report: August 11, 2016
Perhaps the most-discussed security issue during July was the apparent surge in violence perpetrated by organized crime against families in their own homes. The most-publicized case was when a family of 11 was executed in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. Among those killed were three U.S. citizens (a mother and her two daughters). Four others were injured in the attack. However, that particular incident was just one of many that occurred this month. Indeed, although attacking families has been a common practice each month for more than five years, this particular crime has surged in the last few months. Indeed, a similar attack in Ciudad Victoria occurred just a few hours later; resulting in the death of 4 members of another family.
Other similar incidents in July include 8 people who were killed when gunmen attacked a residence in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. Another family of 5 was gunned down in Chilapa, Guerrero. Five people were also killed inside their home in San José de los Pinos, Michoacán. Four people (including a 10-year-old boy) were executed inside a home in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca. Gunmen killed a family of 7 (including 2 minors) in Tepecoacuilco de Trujano, Guerrero. A woman was killed and two people were injured when gunmen attacked a residence in Papantla, Veracruz. Assailants decapitated a man, and killed his wife and 11-year-old son in their home in Oaxaca. A father and his infant were injured when gunmen stormed their residence in Morelia, Michoacán. Gunmen opened fire on a family on a street in Chilpancingo (Guerrero), killing the father and a 10-year-old boy, while a woman was injured in the attack.
As indicated in our last few monthly reports, the total number of homicides and the number of homicides related to organized crime have both been on the rise this year. According to the Secretaría de Gobernación (SEGOB), the total number of homicides in the first six months of 2016 was 15% higher than the same period of 2015. The figure for 2016 is still lower than the peak period of violence in 2011-2012 when conflict between the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels drove violence in Ciudad Juárez through the roof. Indeed, the overall drop in the number of homicides reported during the first few years of the Peña Nieto administration can be mostly attributed to declines in violence in that one particular city. The reduction of violence in Ciudad Juárez obscured the fact that violence was actually expanding or at least constant in most of the rest of the country; rather than actually declining as hoped. Our internal data about violence confirms a notable decline in violence in Ciudad Juárez from 2013 until early this year. Unfortunately, there has been an increase of violence in that city over the last few months.
Furthermore, across Mexico 2015 showed a 19% increase in the total number of homicides over the previous year, and 2016 is on track to be 15% higher than last year. Indeed, at the current rate, 2016 would record the 3rd highest annual number of homicides since the drug war began. The most likely cause of increased violence is fragmentation of the major criminal organizations as their leaders have been apprehended over the last few years. Interestingly, the Secretario de Gobernación, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, declared that the cartels have been deteriorated by the arrests of their leaders; with the implication that this is good news.
While it may be true that the arrest of key leaders has deteriorated their ability to traffic drugs to the United States, it has also led to tremendous fragmentation within these organizations and increased violence between their emerging factions. Furthermore, any loss of revenue associated with reduced trafficking to the United States is compensated by expanding street drug sales inside Mexico. It also forces these groups to expand other criminal operations inside Mexico such as extortion, kidnapping, cargo theft, armed robbery, and other illicit activities. In order to maintain these illicit revenue streams, criminal groups need to control territory within Mexico itself. In a sense, the number of square kilometers a particular organization controls relates directly to how many residents and businesses from which they can extract revenue. Therefore, not only do they need to violently “protect” these revenue territories, they are motivated to expand into those controlled by “weaker” organizations.
In sum, increased violence and other crimes committed against residents and businesses inside Mexico should be seen as a “logical” consequence of cartel fragmentation. Therefore, we anticipate this trend to continue. Furthermore, it is likely that even more criminal groups will soon adopt extreme violence in order to protect their revenue territories. While the Zetas, the cartels of Guerrero, and the Caballeros Templarios have always been especially violent, much of the recent violence is associated with newer groups resulting from the fragmentation such as the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG).
Attacks against Governmental Authority
There were 57 attacks directed at government authorities reported during June. This figure is the second highest since February 2013, and it follows the high number reported in June as well. Indeed, there were more assassinations of government and party officials in July than in June. Therefore, it is likely that the elevated levels of political violence associated with the June elections lingered in to July because of competing interests between various organized crime groups, political activists, and “their” candidates (both winners and losers).
Figure 2: Attacks against Authorities by Month‡ λ
‡ Note: These figures should be considered minimum counts as numerous incidents are not reported by the media or government officials.
λ President Peña Nieto took office on December 1, 2012 (columns in red).
There were 16 assassinations of government or political party officials during July. This is the highest figure reported since January 2011. Several mayors or mayor-elects were killed. For example, the mayor was gunned down in San Juan Chamula, Chiapas. Another city official was also killed in the attack. In Pungarabato (Guerrero), the mayor was ambushed and killed. His body guard was also killed in the attack. A city council member was ambushed and killed in Chilapa, Guerrero. A former mayor was gunned down in Domingo Arenas, Puebla. The body of the municipal emergency response coordinator was found in a mass grave in Fresnillo, Zacatecas. An official with the Administración de la Jurisdicción Sanitaria was ambushed and killed in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán. A former official of the Comisión de Transporte y Vialidad de Guerrero was gunned down along with his father in Chilpancingo, Guerrero. The director of the Comisariado Ejidal was gunned down in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca.
State and federal officials were also targeted. An official with the Procuraduría General de Justicia (PGR) was murdered outside his home in Guadalupe, Nuevo León. A key security advisor to the governor of Veracruz and his wife were kidnapped from a special events salon in Veracruz. He was also a state police officer. The state director of government (a senior advisory post for the governor) was ambushed and killed in Cancún, Quintana Roo. His bodyguard was also killed in the attack. A delegate of the Secretaría de Desarrollo Agrario, Territorial y Urbano (Sedatu) was assassinated in Colima, Colima. He was also the brother of a former governor. In a curious case, a former gubernatorial candidate of Guerrero was reported “kidnapped” by federal police and the authorities have not confirmed the incident; the actual event reportedly occurred on June 22.
Union and party activists were also killed. For example, a regional leader of the Confederación de Trabajadores de México (CTM) was gunned down in Las Choapas, Veracruz. An activist with the MORENA party was gunned down in Delegación Álvaro Obregón of Mexico City. The leader of the Sindicato Industrial de Trabajadores y Artistas de Televisión y Radio, Similares y Conexos de la República Mexicana (Sitatyr) was kidnapped and murdered in León, Guanajuato. A leader of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME) was gunned down in Emiliano Zapata, Morelos.
There were also 4 attempted assassinations this month. For example, the deputy director of the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) was injured during an ambush in Mazatlán, Sinaloa. A city council member was injured during an attack in Santiago Jocotepec, Oaxaca. In another incident, gunmen on a motorcycle attempted to kill the regional leader of the Confederación de Trabajadores de México (CTM)) in Veracruz. In a possible case of police retaliation, a community activist in Veracruz who had recently protested against state police corruption was injured outside his home by a gunmen the day after the protest.
At least 27 law enforcement or military personnel were killed in attacks during June. This high figure matches the previous month. Gunmen fired on 4 military patrols in Sinaloa and Tamaulipas (3). Four federal police patrols were attacked in Michoacán and Tamaulipas (3). In addition, 5 state police patrols were attacked in Guerrero, Michoacán (3), and Tamaulipas. The incidents resulted in at least five police fatalities and several injuries. Five municipal police patrols were attacked in Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, and Oaxaca. Most of the municipal police fatalities were in Guerrero. In one incident two transit police officers were killed while on patrol in Acapulco, Guerrero. A female bystander was injured in the attack.
With regard to fixed targets, assailants fired into the office of the president of the Tribunal de Justicia in Chilpancingo, Guerrero. Also, a body guard protecting the director of Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF) was gunned down in Ecatepec, Edomex.
More than 15 additional personnel were kidnapped and/or gunned down in DF, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Zacatecas. Other incidents involved the staff or close associates of government officials. For example, the mayor’s bodyguard was executed in Pungarabato, Guerrero.
Family members of government officials were murdered in several areas of the country. For example, the father-in-law of the former governor was kidnapped in Zacatecas, Zacatecas. The son of a former mayoral candidate (Morena party) was killed in Chiautla, Edomex. The wife of a PRI party delegate was murdered in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca. The wife of a former local deputy was ambushed and killed while driving near Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. The son of an official with the Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE) was murdered in Córdoba, Veracruz. The father of a city council member was kidnapped in Linares, Tamaulipas. The son of the regional leader of the Asociación Local de Productores de Caña (CNPR) was kidnapped in Paso del Macho, Veracruz.
Journalists and other members of the media continue to be targeted as well. For example, an employee of Televisa Bajío was gunned down in León, Guanajuato. Assailants fired on two reporters in Apatzingán, Michoacán. The daughter of a journalist was kidnapped and subsequently released in Xalapa, Veracruz. Finally, despite being provided an armed guard by the state police, a reporter with the El Piñero de la Cuenca was gunned down in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz.
Geographic Pattern of Attacks
Attacks against authorities occurred across 17 states, and this is the highest number since October 2015. The states impacted include Chiapas, Colima, DF, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas.
Table 1: States Hit Hardest by Attacks on Authorities.
|States||Number of Attacks|
Mexican federal authorities reported the arrest of 9 regional leaders or key operatives of the major criminal organizations during July. This figure is slightly higher than last month. Among those arrested were two Zetas. Alfredo Chan Chik, a regional leader of the Zetas, who was captured in Aldama, Tamaulipas. Rubén Casa Núñez “El Burro” or “El Bambi”, another regional leader of the Zetas, who was captured in Monterrey, Nuevo León.
Two leaders of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel were apprehended in Guerrero and Tamaulipas. They included Humberto René Mandujano, the presumed leader of the cartel, and Joaquín Alonso Piedra, a financial operative of the cartel.
One of the original founders of La Familia Michoacan, Nicandro Barrera Medrano “El Nica“, was captured in Mexico City. Also, Alberto Edilberto Bravo Barragán “El Gavilán“, a regional leader of the Caballeros Templarios, was captured in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero. Finally, Víctor Hugo Benítez Palacios, a regional leader of the Guerreros Unidos for Iguala (Guerrero), was apprehended in Cuernavaca, Morelos.
Federal authorities also arrested several government officials on corruption charges or for association with organized criminal groups. For example, the mayor of Alvaro Obregon (Michoacán) was charged with ordering municipal police officers to execute 10 people. An official with the Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Estado de Coahuila (CDHEC) was charged with kidnapping in Monclova, Coahuila. A municipal police shift commander was arrested for involvement in kidnapping operations in Cárdenas, Tabasco.
Ximena Bernal Vargas, who is the leader of the PRI party youth organization in Guerrero, was arrested alongside Carlos Alberto “El Ruso“, the regional leader of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel in Acapulco, Guerrero. She is also the daughter of the former mayor of Acapulco and the half-sister of the current director of the department of women’s affairs for the state of Guerrero. Bernal Vargas, Carlos Alberto, and four other people were found in a residence containing large quantities of drugs, cash, and firearms.
According to the Grupo de Coordinación Tamaulipas, Mexican authorities seized more than 860 firearms (including 700 rifles) across the state of Tamaulipas between June 24 and July 14. At least 115 fragmentation grenades were also seized. During July specifically, Federal authorities reported the specific seizure of weapons and munitions caches at three separate locations across Guerrero and Tamaulipas. Fragmentation grenades were found at one of the sites in Guerrero. Also, a M240 heavy machine gun was found at the site in Tamaulipas. This military weapon is designed for sustained fire and is normally mounted in vehicles or aircraft.
Street Battles (Enfrentamientos)
There were 46 street battles reported during July. This figure represents a 31% drop from the extremely high number of June. However, the number of states impacted was actually the highest since March 2015. These battles occurred in 14 states (Baja California, Durango, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas). The vast majority of these incidents occurred in Tamaulipas and Veracruz. In one incident, more than 100 police officers were involved in a sustained chase of suspected kidnappers along the Mexico City-Acapulco toll road (Highway 95D) near the Palo Blanco toll booth.
Table 2: States Hit Hardest by Street Battles.
|States||Number of Battles|
Hazardous Overland Travel
Six gunmen robbed passengers on a bus traveling along Highway 131 near Altotonga, Veracruz. Two gunmen robbed passengers on a bus traveling from Guadalajara to Tampico near Cosío, Aguascalientes. Gunmen robbed passengers on a bus traveling from Mexico City to San Luis Potosí after boarding the vessel near the Tepotzotlán toll booth. They also reportedly sexually assaulted a female passenger. Approximately 80 passengers were robbed when gunmen took control of two buses along Highway 200 near Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca. A passenger was killed during a robbery on a bus in Tecemac, Edomex. One person was killed and 8 people were injured during an armed robbery on a bus in Delegacion Tláhuac of Mexico City. Another woman was killed during a bus robbery in Delegación Álvaro Obregón of Mexico City. A woman was injured when gunmen attempting to stop a passenger bus fired into the vehicle along Highway 200 in southwestern Oaxaca. Also, a cattle rancher was forced off the highway and killed as he drove near Juchitan de Zaragoza, Oaxaca
Official figures concerning the total number of homicide victims of organized crime is not yet available for July. However, preliminary assessments suggest the month will match the previous two months. Also, at least 144 people were killed in attacks on civilians in public venues such as restaurants, bars, small businesses, shopping areas, a bus terminal, a cockfight, and a soccer field. This is the highest number of victims since May 2013. There were at least such 60 attacks this month, and this is the highest number since April 2012. These attacks occurred across 16 states (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Colima, DF, Durango, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas). Most of the attacks were in Chihuahua, Guerrero, Michoacán, and Veracruz.
Interestingly, in a classic example of willful denial, the governor of Guerrero, Héctor Astudillo, proclaimed that Guerrero was safe because “the victims of organized crime are not tourists or celebrities.” While he is in fact correct that the vast majority of victims are not tourists nor celebrities, it would be difficult to argue that the state is “safe.”
One person was killed and two were injured when assailants opened fire in a bus station in Mexico City (terminal de autobuses Martín Carrera). Two U.S. businessmen were reportedly killed by a lone gunmen inside the Marriot Hotel in Tijuana, Baja California. A 6-year-old boy was killed when gunmen attacked a funeral in Acapulco, Guerrero. A musician with the popular Banda MS group was injured by a gunman outside his hotel in Colonia Polanco of Mexico City.
Gunmen entered a hospital and killed five people in Tamazula, Durango. Gunmen also entered a hospital and killed a patient in Mazatlán, Sinaloa. Another person was killed when gunmen entered a hospital in Veracruz, Veracruz. Gunmen fired on a hospital in Poza Rica, Veracruz.
Other victims this month include a Pemex employee who was kidnapped and murdered in Veracruz. A professor with the famous school in Ayotzinapa was kidnapped in Tixtla, Guerrero. The same fate met a school teacher in Santigo Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca.
Also, the mass deposits of victims’ bodies were found at 104 different sites across 20 states (Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, DF, Edomex, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Yucatán, and Zacatecas). Most of the sites were in Guerrero, Michoacán, and Veracruz. This is the largest number of states since 2014. More importantly, both the number of victims and the number of individual sites are the highest since October 2012.
As discussed previously, the viciousness of these murders has been compounded by the increased propensity of dismemberment and decapitations. This month at least 41 of the victims at 31 sites across 9 states had been subjected to such violence. They were especially prevalent in Guerrero and Veracruz. In other cases, victims remains were displayed prominently without fear of apprehension. For example, three nude bodies were dumped in a major street intersection in Atizapán de Zaragoza, Edomex. The nude body of a woman was deposited in the street in front of an apartment building in Colonia Nápoles of Mexico City.
Women continue to be targeted by organized crime groups and July was no exception. This month at least 100 women were killed by these groups. These crimes occurred across 17 states; but mostly in Michoacán, Oaxaca, and Veracruz.
Finally, at least 18 taxi drivers were killed this month in Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Veracruz. Also, a truck driver was kidnaped from his vehicle while traveling along the Córdoba-La Tinaja highway (Highway 150) in Veracruz.
Selected Vigilante Incidents
- July 3 – residents attempted to lynch an accused thief in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
- July 5 – passengers attempted to lynch two individuals who were in the process of committing a robbery on a bus in Naucalpan, Edomex.
- July 10 – several taxi drivers detained a man who had slashed the throat of a security guard during a robbery of a Coppel store in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.
- July 25 – an accused bank robber was forcibly removed from a hospital and lynched by residents in Zongolica, Veracruz. Police recovered his body after the fact.
- July 26 – residents detained an individual who had been shattering car windows in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
Extortion, Kidnapping, and Armed Robbery
There were 21 confirmed cases of fatal attacks related to extortion operations during June. This figure is the second highest reported since November 2015. These incidents occurred in 9 states (DF, Edomex, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). Most of these were in Michoacán and Veracruz. Victims included owners of several bars, restaurants, small shops, a car wash, the manager of an ice factory, and repair facilities. For example, the owner of a butcher shop was executed in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. Her 2-year-old son was injured during the attack. The owner of a chef’s school was murdered outside Plaza Galerías for failure to pay extortion demands in Cuernavaca, Morelos.
There were also several non-fatal attacks this month. For example, an auto repair shop was destroyed by Molotov cocktails in Papantla, Veracruz. A bar was destroyed by arson in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. Also, two fragmentation grenades failed to detonate after being thrown into a bar in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Two Molotov cocktails were left outside a law office in Guadalajara. No damages or injuries were reported.
According to the Asociación Alto al Secuestro, Edomex, Veracruz, and Guerrero are currently the states experiencing the highest numbers of kidnappings. Data published by the Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SESNSP) identifies the top 10 states and municipalities with regard to reported kidnappings (see Tables 3 and 4).
Table 3: Top Ten States with Reported Kidnappings.
Table 4: Top Ten Municipalities with Reported Kidnappings.
During July authorities reported the disruption of 21 kidnapping operations. This is the second highest number since December 2012. These were located in 8 states (Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Querétaro, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Veracruz). Most of the operations were in Tamaulipas and Veracruz.
In addition to the disruption of particular kidnapping rings, there were several reported incidents were victims were released or escaped. For example, a teacher who had been kidnapped in Puebla was found alive along a highway near Tuxpan, Veracruz. The daughter of a hardware store owner was kidnapped near Córdoba, Veracruz. She was rescued after the kidnappers’ vehicle overturned on the highway and police arrived at the scene of the accident. Also, authorities rescued a pregnant woman was who had been kidnapped in Hermosillo, Sonora.
Among the numerous new cases of kidnapping reported this month, a few are listed here. An engineer who worked for the LG maquiladora in Reynosa (Tamaulipas) was kidnapped and murdered. In two separate incidents two Pemex employees were kidnapped along roads near Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Their whereabouts are yet unknown. The owner of a transport company was kidnaped from his ranch near Linares, Nuevo León. His son, who was a city council member, was kidnapped under similar circumstances in 2012. The owner of a hardware store (Construrama) was kidnapped in Cuitláhuac, Veracruz. The owner of the Semillas Olivo store was kidnapped by several gunmen in Papantla, Veracruz. The son of a restaurant owner was kidnapped by assailants traveling in a taxi in Guadalupe, Nuevo León. The owner of bar was kidnapped and murdered in Soledad de Doblado (Veracruz), while another bar owner was kidnapped in Poza Rica, Veracruz. A cattle rancher was killed during an attempted kidnapping in Jalapa, Tabasco.
A woman was kidnapped while driving near Cárdenas (Tabasco). Her captors have demanded a ransom payment of 10 million pesos. The following day the son of a prominent attorney was kidnapped off the street in the same city, and his captors have also demanded several million pesos in ransom.
Two 13-year-old girls were kidnapped while walking home from school in Oaxaca. A woman was kidnapped and murdered in Cadereyta, Nuevo León. Gunmen kidnapped two women from a home in Xalapa, Veracruz. An adolescent was injured while protecting his mother from an attempted kidnapping in Villahermosa, Tabasco.
There are reports that several gunmen attempted to kidnap the archbishop from the parish rectory in Mexquitic de Carmona, San Luis Potosí. The assailants were not able to locate the priest and tied-up three employees before they left, and a secretary broke her legs trying to escape the assault.
Aside from the incidents of armed robbery discussed in the travel section on page 5, there were numerous reports of armed robbery across Mexico this month; with many incidents resulting in serious injury and death. For example, several gunmen robbed an unspecified quantity of gold from the La India gold mine near Sahuaripa, Sonora. Eight gunmen entered the facilities of the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Tamaulipas in Altamira, tied-up the security guards, and made off with an undetermined amount of cash. Five security guards were tied-up during an armed robbery of the state aquarium in Veracruz. Several gunmen overpowered a security guard at the Mercado del Norte during prime business hours and stole merchandise and cash in Tampico, Tamaulipas. A security guard was killed during an armed robbery of a Pemex station in Juchitan de Zaragoza, Oaxaca. The municipal treasurer was robbed of 3 million pesos while transporting police payroll in Veracruz. A restaurant employee was killed during an armed robbery in Acayucan, Veracruz.
Several commercial vehicles were reported stolen and several were recovered as well. For example, using a GPS tracking system police were able to recover a stolen tractor-trailer rig in Izucar de Matamoros, Puebla. Another stolen tractor-trailer with household electronics was recovered in Vista Hermosa, Michoacán. A stolen Pemex fuel truck was recovered near Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
At least 11 banks were robbed in Puebla, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. Also, two armored truck guards were killed during a robbery of their vehicle in Cancún, Quintana Roo. An employee was injured during a robbery of a casa de cambio in Veracruz.
Other robberies were directed at the general public in exposed settings. For example, a woman was killed while resisting an armed robbery on a bus in Delegación Álvaro Obregón of Mexico City. A teenager was killed while resisting a carjacking in Naucalpan, Edomex. An elderly woman and her son were killed during an armed robbery in Mexico City. A retired Pemex employee was attacked and killed with a hatchet during a robbery outside his home in Veracruz. Three people were shot during a robbery of an Oxxo store in Coatzintla, Veracruz. A woman was injured by gunmen during a robbery in a store in Cosoleacaque, Veracruz. A pregnant woman was injured during a robbery in Morelia, Michoacán. A man was shot in the head (but survived) while being robbed in Guadalupe, Nuevo León.
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