HomeNewsBriefMexico Unplugs Narco-Cameras
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Mexico Unplugs Narco-Cameras

MEXICO / 26 MAY 2015 BY LOREN RIESENFELD EN

Authorities in Reynosa, Mexico have dismantled 39 Internet-operated cameras designed to spy on security forces, the latest twist in the so-called arms race for technological superiority between police and Mexico’s criminal groups. 

State police in Tamaulipas dismantled the cameras, which were mounted on telephone poles in the city of Reynosa, which lies along the US-Mexico border, reported El Universal. The cameras were designed to monitor 59 “high impact” locations: police stations, military bases, the Attorney General’s office, other government agencies, and major thoroughfares in the city.

Whichever criminal group operated the cameras began taking them down once they realized authorities discovered the network. And while the government did not say which group operated the cameras, Reynosa is a stronghold of the Gulf Cartel.

InSight Crime Analysis

Criminal groups in Mexico tend to rely on paid lookouts called “halcones,” or falcons, to collect information on police activity, an activity that is considered a crime in Tamaulipas. Whichever criminal group installed the cameras in Reynosa appears to have bypassed the halcones, instead relying on technology to spy on authorities and control their territory.

The use of Internet-operated cameras is just the latest example of Mexico’s criminal groups harnessing technology for the purpose of committing crimes. In another recent case, drug traffickers along the border have reportedly used drones and lightweight aircraft to move drugs above the reach of border police on the ground. Authorities have reacted to this growing sophistication by upping their own use of technology — notably, drone use by US border agencies and authorities in Latin America has increased rapidly.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

The technological arms race has gone online as well. Criminal groups in Mexico have used social media to recruit informants, intimidate residents, and spy on their own members. Networks of concerned citizens have popped up on Twitter, which try to track criminal activity. Even more concerning, cyber crime and information theft are growing components of Mexico’s criminal portfolio.

Still, the appearance of this camera network in Reynosa might feed into the Mexican government’s fears that the security forces are outmatched by criminal groups. In March, President Enrique Peña Nieto said criminal groups are “better prepared” and have “more sophisticated weapons” than security forces — even though, as InSight Crime has reported, Mexico spent nearly $1 billion on military equipment imports last year.  

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