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BRIEF

Phone Extortion in Mexico Rising

EXTORTION / 7 DEC 2010 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

Threatening phone calls made by supposed members of violent crime groups like the Zetas increased 210 percent from 2009, says a Mexican security agency.

According to the Citizen's Council for Public Security (CCSP), a government body that monitors crime rates, in 2010 a total of 119,007 threatening calls were reported. The actual rate of phone extortion is probably higher, considering the number of cases that go unreported. The CCSP registered an average of 9,917 threatening phone calls a month, only a slight drop from last year's average of 10,000, reports El Economista.

The government launched a campaign in 2007 to try and register the country's cell phone subscribers, as many extortion and kidnapping schemes are carried out with mobile phones. In many cases extortion schemes are run from prison, with felons calling numbers from the local phone book or from cell phone lists.

In Juarez, extortionists are being blamed for setting fire to a kindergarten on Monday. El Diario de Juarez reports that some families still took their children to class today, even though part the school burned down allegedly after school staff refused to pay their monthly "quota" to local gangs. The Attorney General's in Chihuahua maintains that the fire was unrelated to extortion payments and was caused by a short-circuited cable.

Extortionists in Juarez have also threatened other schools in the area, reports El Economista

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