HomeNewsBriefCan Community Policing Help Tackle Organized Crime in Mexico?
BRIEF

Can Community Policing Help Tackle Organized Crime in Mexico?

HOMICIDES / 8 OCT 2018 BY ANNA GRACE EN

A community-focused policing program that has produced positive results in one of Mexico’s most violent states suggests that alternative forms of policing could be a way forward to quell rising violence, but the question remains: can they help tackle organized crime?

Under the program -- which was established in 2015 in Morelia, the capital city of southwestern Michoacán state, by local police chief Bernardo León Olea -- lawyers, psychologists and social workers cooperate with police to provide victim support, and community meetings are held to improve public relations with the police, the New York Times reported.

The police force tripled in size and officers were given new uniforms, among other benefits. However, a proposed salary raise never came to fruition.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Since the program began, public perceptions of safety and trust in the local police have improved, contrasting with concerns surrounding police corruption elsewhere in Mexico.

Authorities in Morelia also reported a drop in intentional homicides between 2015 and 2017, whereas homicides across Michoacán as a whole spiked in the same period. The state has one of the highest rates of organized crime-related murders in Mexico, according to an independent study.

However, during the first six months of 2018, homicide rates in Morelia increased once more.

Still, León Olea, who left his post in September 2018, argues that the program is part of the reason for the temporary improvement in security, despite those who criticize his work and deny that Morelia was safer under his command.

InSight Crime Analysis

León Olea’s model indicates that more effective and less destructive alternatives exist for tackling violence and organized crime instead of the militarized approach long-favored by the Mexican government.

The use of military forces to combat domestic security threats -- principally organized crime groups -- has generally led to an uptick in violence in Mexico and across the region.

Rather than aggressively pursuing criminals, the project in Morelia placed an emphasis on strengthening ties between the public and the police force.

"Community policing seems to help restore this public confidence in police," Brian Phillips, a security expert and associate professor at the Centre for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico City, told Insight Crime. "This is crucial for reducing crime."

However, it remains to be seen whether similar measures could prove effective on a national scale. Community-focused policing programs have traditionally had isolated and ephemeral effects, evidenced by the temporary decrease in homicides experienced in Morelia.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Police Reform

“It's great to see the progress in Morelia, but it's unclear how replicable this model is,” Phillips said. “Corruption is endemic in many places, and there aren't resources for social programs or police salaries.”

Furthermore, simple, localized measures are unlikely to deter Mexico’s highly sophisticated and violent criminal groups.

“Local police enforcement has very little impact on organized crime,” Jaime López, a security policy consultant told Insight Crime. “It isn't meant for that and it's simply not built for that.”

If the Mexican government is to be more successful in tackling organized crime, the focus must lie elsewhere.

“We need better investigative teams and more money for the justice system. It's not so much about police but about prosecution -- investigating cases and arresting culprits,” López said.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BARRIO 18 / 16 DEC 2021

Though El Salvador stands on track for another record low in homicides this year, the country was recently shaken by…

ELITES AND CRIME / 20 MAY 2022

Political assassinations, record drug seizures, gang wars – an avalanche of criminal concerns in Paraguay are coalescing around the city…

KIDNAPPING / 22 SEP 2021

The Venezuelan police have stepped in amid a spate of violent crimes caused by gang members pretending to sell cars…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…