GPS tracking for Mexican kidnap victims
22nd Aug 2008 | 10:24
Under-the-skin satellite chips protect the wealthy
With soaring kidnapping rates, wealthy Mexicans are having tracking chips implanted subcutaneously, allowing satellites to pinpoint them should they be locked in the boot of a car or dangling above a pit of crocodiles in an underground doombase.
For $4,000 and an annual renewal of $2,200, Mexican security firm Xega injects the crystal-encased chip – the size and shape of a grain of rice – into customers' bodies with a syringe, usually between the skin and muscle where it can't be seen.
Pressing a panic button on an external device contacts the satellite, which alerts Xega, who then call the police.
Xega used to design global positioning systems to track down stolen cars, but when the company owner was kidnapped in broad daylight in 2001, he adapted the technology to create the crime-fighting chips.
Xega now views kidnapping as a growth industry, with official statistics showing a leap of around 40 per cent between 2004-2007.
In fact, kidnapping is becoming such a problem in Mexico that it's not just the rich and privileged who have to worry now.
"Before, they only kidnapped key, well-known economically successful people like industrialists and landowners. Now they are kidnapping people from the middle class," said Sergio Galvan, Xega's commercial director.
Recently-chipped Cristina, a Mexican citizen who feared even to give her last name, agreed: "It's not like we are wealthy people, but they'll kidnap you for a watch. Everyone is living in fear."