The dismantling of a microtrafficking operation in Mexico City that used bags issued by UberEATS to deliver marijuana shows how dealers are using new, and, analysts say, less violent ways to distribute drugs.
At least ten people were arrested by police in the working class neighbourhood of Tepito on May 30, in possession of a number of bags of marijuana packed into the UberEATS backpacks, according to news reports.
The police also found several muffins, presumably also containing marijuana, which had been packed for delivery.
UberEATS backpacks have become common in the upscale neighborhoods of the city, where the service has become popular. It provides home delivery for customers of food sourced from restaurants that do not always provide takeout services.
In response to the arrests, Uber -- which also runs the highly popular mobile telephone-car service in Mexico City -- issued the following statement to the Mexican press: "Uber condemns all acts that are a risk to people’s health or security."
It added that it would cooperate with the authorities in their investigation.
InSight Crime Analysis
The use of door-to-door delivery services such as that furnished by UberEATS service might actually help reduce the violence usually associated with microtrafficking.
Tepito is Mexico City’s most emblematic 'barrio bravo,' or tough neighborhood. It is a hub for crimes such as counterfeiting, drug processing and sales, as well as arms trafficking. It is also home to the famous Santa Muerte shrine. Violence here is common and ever-present.
By creating steps of separation between buyers and sellers drug dealers maintain a lower profile and a more discreet distribution network.
"All things being equal, more discreet and decentralized distribution equals less violence," Alejandro Hope, a crime analyst and former intelligence official,* told InSight Crime.
If clients can order their drugs via the phone or messaging services and have them delivered to their door, it means a lot less waiting around and exposure for both sides of the transaction.
"For sure, home-delivery services tend to be much less violent than open-air markets (people standing in corners) and other forms of retail drug selling, like club dealers and the like," said Jaime López, a security policy consultant and former police official. "Obviously, the best alternative is a well-regulated legal market, but in terms of violence, delivery beats other illegal alternatives."
*Hope is also part of InSight Crime's Board of Directors.