Monday, 12 August 2013

Blocking cell phone usage of jailed gang members in São Paulo

Anyone who was here last year and witnessed the escalating death toll of policemen knows that the Primeiro Comando do Capital (PPC), the criminal gang which operates in São Paulo, is a hugely powerful force despite having up to half of its 15,000 members in prison. Part of the reason for that is the ease with which mobile phones are smuggled into prisons and used from within. The urban violence which spread throughout the city in 2006 was famously alleged to have been coordinated primarily from inside prisons thanks to mobile phones.

Cellphones being Smuggled into Brazilian prisons is common

All of that, though, may be about to change.

Brazilian firm Innovatech and Israel's Suntech are both vying for the R$1,1 billion ($484million) contract to run cell phone blocking technology across the prisons of the state of São Paulo. The idea being to jam cell phone signals coming from within the prison in order to reduce coordinated crime and victim reprisals.

Both companies were recently involved in secret trials of their cell phone denial technologies at high security prisons and it now seems that this long-promised initiative will finally become reality by year end. During one of the trials at Mogi das Cruzes prison, over 1500 active sim cards (some of which presumably belonged to prison staff) were detected and the cell phone difficulties incurred by inmates is said to have resulted in 23 calls to the customer helplines of major Brazilian operators. Helplines which, once the scheme is implemented, will have very few ways to assist these particular customers.

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