HomeNewsBriefMexico Increasing Use of Electronic Surveillance in Fight Against Crime
BRIEF

Mexico Increasing Use of Electronic Surveillance in Fight Against Crime

MEXICO / 7 FEB 2017 BY ALISTAIR THOMPSON EN

Authorities in Mexico are increasingly making use of electronic surveillance in investigations and operations against organized crime, but the growing use of these tools raises questions about their effectiveness and potential for abuse.

A recent Milenio report revealed that over the past four years, the Mexican Attorney General's Office has gained legal approval to tap more than 1,800 private telephone lines. The number of phone tap orders grew from 396 in 2013 to 584 in 2016, an increase of nearly 50 percent.

In addition, law enforcement during the past four years submitted more than 36,000 requests for information to various technology and communications companies including Google, Hotmail, Yahoo and Microsoft, as well as to private universities. Milenio reports that unlike phone taps, these requests for user information do not require judicial approval when they are related to organized crime investigations.

The number of such information requests has not increased as steadily as the number of phone taps. According to Milenio, some 7,800 requests were made in 2013, compared to more than 12,500 in 2014, more than 8,100 in 2015 and just over 7,800 in 2016.

https://www.milenio.com/policia/lucha_anticrimen-pgr-intervino_lineas-intervenciones_telefonicas-delincuencia-milenio_0_898110202.html
https://www.milenio.com/policia/lucha_anticrimen-pgr-intervino_lineas-intervenciones_telefonicas-delincuencia-milenio_0_898110202.html

Authorities are also apparently using real-time telephone location tracking technologies more frequently. Milenio reports that the use of these tools grew from 473 cases in 2013 to more than 1,300 in 2016.

InSight Crime Analysis

There are some anecdotal cases in which electronic surveillance has assisted Mexican law enforcement in important respects. For example, cell phone tracking technology reportedly helped authorities locate the infamous Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán during an operation that led to his arrest in 2014.

However, the overall impact of electronic surveillance tools on Mexico's security situation is unclear. The increase in phone taps and the use of real-time location tracking do not appear to have made an impact on persistently high levels of criminal violence in Mexico. In fact, while these technologies may have helped capture top-ranking members of powerful crime groups, this "kingpin" strategy has tended to fragment the criminal landscape without addressing underlying factors driving organized crime.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

The increasing use of electronic surveillance technologies by authorities in Mexico also raises concerns about its potential for abuse, especially given the Mexican security forces' reputation for violating citizens' rights with impunity.

Misuse of such equipment has been documented in other countries in Latin America in recent years. One example is a 2009 scandal involving Colombia's now-defunct Administrative Security Department (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad - DAS), in which the investigative and intelligence gathering agency was caught spying on then-President Álvaro Uribe's political opponents. The former head of DAS was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2015 for her role in the incident.

Additionally, Panama is seeking the extradition of former President Ricardo Martinelli, who is wanted on a number of charges including accusations that he used electronic surveillance equipment to spy on his own political enemies.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CYBERCRIME / 3 MAR 2011

Reports that Mexico is now the world leader in cyber crime highlight the growth in the Americas of…

HEROIN / 10 AUG 2016

US prosecutors have brought charges against a drug ring linked to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel that turned western New York into…

JALISCO CARTEL / 13 OCT 2014

In late September, members of Mexico's Gendarmerie, the new federal police squad, made a quiet but significant discovery among the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…