Mexican drug cartels oftentimes have access to more sophisticated technology than law enforcement, as they have the ability to track the location of police from high-tech control rooms and even intercept satellite feeds. With tools like these available to drug-traffickers, the war on drugs has evolved into a technological arms race. Thankfully, regular people have found a way to use technology to fight back against the cartels.
Tony Payan, a University of Texas at El Paso political science professor, told TechCrunch that there are three basic ways that people in Mexico are using technology to fight drug cartels:
First, data mapping has been simplified by Viridiana Rios, a Harvard researcher, to help law enforcement fight cartels in Mexico. Mexican law enforcement has an astonishing amount of data on drug cartels, but searching through this data has proved difficult. Data mapping allows authorities to filter Google data about drug cartels and find out which cartels are operating in which territories.
When authorities can analyze certain statistics and movements regarding drug cartels, the government can then design policies to address such movements and decrease violence.
Second, social media has aided in improving safety in Mexico. Ret.io, a website and phone application, has been developed by "two kids" to allow citizens to report crime so that people can avoid dangerous areas. It has even been used to help fight cartel-sponsored police corruption and abuse — a real problem in Mexico where only 10% of crimes are reported. In the future, as Google has suggested, networks could be created for citizens to safely (and anonymously) report cartel activity without fear of police corruption.
Finally, technology is being used by common people to end media blackouts. Many journalists are afraid to report news that cartels look unfavorable upon, but technology helps bloggers to fill that niche anonymously. Blogs like Diego Valle's Blog and Blog del Narco catalogue violence and provide data on homicides and murder patterns. This information can then be used by researchers and authorities to fight cartel violence.
Of course, average Joes cannot win the war on drugs alone: manpower, intelligence and virtuous government officials are needed to really put up a fight. But technology and the common man are powerful assets that might save thousands of innocent lives and help Mexico to become a safe community once again.