The rise of South American organized criminal groups using advanced technology to target homes and business in the United States.

December 27, 2023

By Daniel Brunner
December 27, 2023, 3 minute read

During my 20 years as a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), I participated in countless investigations ranging from international terrorism, white supremacy, kidnappings, Hispanic gangs, and even crimes against the food industry. However, in recent years, law enforcement has witnessed the growth and evolution of a particular criminal element I also frequently encountered: South American Theft Groups (SATGs). Law enforcement is aware that SATGs have struck in almost every state in the US, and their crime wave continues to this day.

These organized crime elements, often hailing from Chile and Colombia, send civilians—oftentimes against their will, but entering the US legally, purporting to be visiting as a tourists—to the United States to commit crimes on behalf of the group, which is why they are sometimes referred to as "Criminal Tourists." After committing several robberies, whether of homes, jewelry stores, or other high-end businesses, these "tourists" then return home to South America with the proceeds. Meanwhile, the SATG dispatches a new group to the United States. Those sought by U.S. authorities for crimes remain in South America, where they can resume their normal lives, their names and identities remaining unknown to U.S. law enforcement.

The rise of SATG using advanced technology to target victims in the United States marks a concerning trend in the realm of domestic security. These criminal elements are increasingly employing sophisticated tools, including Wi-Fi jammers, to disrupt home security systems, particularly cameras, which poses a significant challenge for homeowners.

The New Wave of Tech-Savvy Crime

Organized criminal groups from South America have been observed leveraging high-tech equipment in their operations. Wi-Fi jammers, a critical tool in their arsenal, are used to disable wireless security devices, including cameras and alarms. By jamming the signal, these criminals effectively blind the surveillance systems, making it easier to break into homes undetected.

How Wi-Fi Jammers Work

Wi-Fi jammers operate by emitting signals on the same frequencies used by wireless devices. When a jammer is activated near a Wi-Fi-based security system, it overwhelms the system with noise or other signals, disrupting the connection between the camera and the network. This interruption prevents the camera from sending live footage or alerts to the homeowner or security services.

The Implications for Home Security

The use of such technology by criminals represents a significant escalation in home invasion tactics. Traditional home security measures, such as alarm systems and CCTV cameras, are rendered less effective when faced with these advanced tools. This shift demands a reevaluation of home security strategies to counter these high-tech threats.

Protecting Against High-Tech Home Invasions

  1. Wired Security Systems: Opting for wired security cameras and alarms can circumvent the vulnerability presented by Wi-Fi jammers. Since these systems do not rely on wireless signals, they remain operational even in the presence of jammers.
  2. Signal Detection Devices: Homeowners can invest in signal detection devices that alert them to the presence of jamming devices. These detectors can sense the unusual signals emitted by jammers, providing an early warning of potential criminal activity.
  3. Network Security Enhancements: Strengthening your home Wi-Fi network's security can also help. Using advanced encryption and regularly updating router firmware can make it more difficult for criminals to disrupt the network.
  4. Physical Security Measures: Beyond technology, reinforcing physical security measures remains crucial. This includes high-quality locks, reinforced doors and windows, and motion-sensor lighting.
  5. Neighborhood Watch Programs: Community vigilance can be a powerful deterrent against organized crime. Neighborhood watch programs encourage collaboration and communication among neighbors, enhancing overall area security.
  6. Professional Security Assessment: Homeowners can also consider hiring security professionals to assess their home and recommend specific measures to counteract these new threats.

The adaptation of South American criminal groups to utilize high-tech equipment like Wi-Fi jammers presents a new challenge in home security. Homeowners must be proactive in adapting their security measures, combining traditional physical security with advanced technological solutions to protect their homes effectively. By staying informed and vigilant, individuals can significantly reduce their vulnerability to these sophisticated criminal tactics.