Cartel operated surveillance cameras in Mexican city

Handout picture released by Tamaulipas State Government shows members of the Mexican Army and State police dismantling video surveillance system operated by criminal group, on May 19, 2015 in the Mexican city of Reynosa (AFP Photo/)

Mexico City (AFP) - A drug cartel installed 39 surveillance cameras in a Mexican city bordering the United States to monitor the movements of residents and security forces, authorities said Friday.

It underlines the pervasiveness of Mexico's powerful drug cartels, who have eyes and ears in towns and cities across the country thanks to human "halcones," or hawks, who act as lookouts and relay information to the gangs.

Most of the cameras were found around Reynosa on poles belonging to the federal government's electricity commission and the Telmex fixed phone line company, Tamaulipas state authorities said.

The cameras were pointed at buildings used by the army, navy, federal prosecutors and state police, as well as major boulevards and shopping centers.

State police and soldiers removed the cameras on Monday and Tuesday, two days before President Enrique Pena Nieto visited the city, which lies across from McAllen, Texas.

During the operation to remove the cameras, the criminal group removed and deactivated 18 of them, the Tamaulipas security task force said in a statement.

The statement did not identify the group but Reynosa is a bastion of the Gulf cartel, which has been hit by a series of major arrests and infighting.

The cameras were operated via the Internet and had the capacity to transmit via wireless or hardline connections, the statement said. The cameras included modems and were powered by electricity cables.