Peru’s government has set up systems to block the use of mobile phones in prisons, in an attempt to prevent inmates from perpetrating crimes from behind bars, state news agency Andina reported.
The Interior Ministry said that the systems, which also block WiFi, have been installed in the El Milagro prison in the northern city of Trujillo and the Picsi prison, also located on the north coast in the city of Chiclayo.
Authorities said that the systems would help prevent prisoners from organizing crimes on the outside, by leading rings to commit extortion, kidnappings and robberies. The practice is reported to be common in Peru, as in many other Latin American nations where inmates exert considerable control in the underfunded prison system.
The number of crimes directed by inmates in the prisons in Trujillo and Chiclayo, the two cities where the systems have first been installed, is particularly high.
Prime Minister Rene Cornejo said the measure is proof that President Ollanta Humala is fulfilling his campaign promise to tackle crime.
“These are concrete steps that we in the Executive are committed to carry out, to give citizens the assurance that we are working directly and permanently to guarantee citizen safety,” Cornejo said.
Humala, a former military officer, came to office in 2011 with promises to improve security in the Andean nation. Even though Peru is relatively safe compared to other nations in Latin America, a continent with the highest homicide rate in the world, one of the main concerns among residents is crime and unsafe cities.
The perception that crime is rampant and that Humala’s government has done little to tackle the issue has contributed to the President’s approval rating declining sharply over the past year.