CCTV Cameras
Big Brother cartel set up 32 cameras in the streets of Reynosa Creative Commons

At least one Mexican crime cartels has gone high-tech, creating their own CCTV surveillance network to protect its nefarious operations.

Authorities in north eastern Mexico's Tamaulipas state recently dismantled an internet-operated video surveillance network used by a criminal organisation to track government security forces as well as civilians, reports Motherboard.

The system comprised 39 cameras scattered throughout Reynosa, a border town entry point into the US for cartels trafficking in narcotics and humans, reports El Universal. The majority of the cameras were aimed at military and police stations, and at various government buildings, including the attorney general's office.

Many of the cameras were installed on telephone poles and remained unnoticed despite service visits by the Federal Electricity Commission, a public utility, and Telmex, the largest privately held telecommunications company in Mexico. The network drew power from electric lines strung above city streets, and connected to the internet via cables to the telephone poles.

The system was finally discovered when a government surveillance camera filmed some of the
rival cameras being installed. Tamaulipas police did not identify the criminal group, though there are indications it was the Gulf Cartel, a crime group believed to be connected to suspected kidnappings targeted at telecommunications specialists, who are then forced to build hidden radio networks for various cartels.

A small crew could likely install a network of up to 50 cameras in a week for a few hundred thousand dollars, estimates Robert Bunker, a researcher at the Strategic Studies Institute at the US Army War College.

Establishing such a network "makes perfect sense," and "highlights the ingenuity of the cartels," he adds. "If the authorities can use such camera systems to monitor activity in a town or city, why can't organized criminals?"