In Mexico, gunmen have gone on a shooting spree of police surveillance cameras in the city of Culiacán – attacks that not only blind authorities but reinforce cartel control.
The shootings have become such a concern that agents with the Sinaloa Attorney General’s Office gathered shotgun casings after the latest incident on October 9, news outlet El Debate reported. That shooting, on a bridge outside the city center, followed a September 28 attack in which armed men shot 84 cameras across the city.
Residents reported hearing gunshots at about 5 a.m. that day. Videos were soon posted on social media of shots being fired, which some mistook for a gunfight. Authorities said the gunmen moved around the city in at least eight vans. They also dropped spike strips in the roads to puncture the tires of police vehicles, according to a report by Revista Espejo.
According to city and state security officials, municipal police possibly aided in the security camera shooting spree. Culiacán Security Minister Mauricio García Ramírez said at least four elements of the police’s prevention unit are under investigation for possible links to criminal groups, Revista Espejo reported.
Following the September attack, some 150 people employed in businesses around the city center did not show up to work out of fear, El Debate reported.
In early October, only 45 of the city’s 300 surveillance cameras were operating. Since being introduced in 2017, more than 1,000 cameras have been destroyed by criminal groups, according to Revista Espejo.
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Though there’s continued debate about the effectiveness of camera surveillance in deterring crime, there’s no doubt that taking these cameras out of service helps to intimidate businesses, hamper law enforcement, and assert criminal control over Culiacán’s residents.
The cameras serve as “the eyes of the police,” Security Deputy Minister Carlos Alberto Hernández Leyva said in 2019 when a series of shootings left just 400 cameras in operation.
Their destruction hinders patrols and drains the state’s security budget.
Since 2013, the government of Sinaloa has purchased more than 2,600 cameras, investing some 236 million pesos (about US $11.5 million) in the police surveillance system, according to Revista Espejo.
Despite the number of cameras destroyed, only one person has been arrested in connection with the attacks on the city’s surveillance system.
The destruction of Culiacán’s security cameras certainly appears to be systematic. For this reason, it’s most likely the work of the Sinaloa Cartel, or gangs contracted by the criminal group.
Residents of Culiacán are no strangers to these type of power moves by the cartel. In October 2019, the city fell under siege as gunmen forced the release of Ovidio Guzmán López, son of former kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera.
The ongoing destruction of surveillance cameras in the city serves as a reminder of the group’s omnipresence.