Tijuana Police Try to Restore Public Trust
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
TIJUANA, Mexico -- People have so little confidence in the police here that the army invited citizens to report crimes to soldiers instead. Officers are so mistrusted that federal authorities even took their guns away for a time last year.
Now Tijuana is campaigning to regain that trust with an accountability campaign to break the officers' old, corrupt habits.
Public Safety Secretary Alberto Capella proudly points to a Tijuana policeman accused of murder who was promptly arrested by his fellow officers.
"If this scenario had happened nine months ago, he wouldn't have been captured. Or he would have asked for help, and they would have let him go," Capella told The Associated Press. "That's a clear indication of the change of attitude taking place among Tijuana police."
Capella was interviewed inside a shiny-new mobile command unit parked under the towering high-tension wires that cross one of east Tijuana's grittiest neighborhoods. The RV-style mobile office _ equipped with remote-controlled cameras, a small conference room and vigorous air conditioning has been deployed around the city this summer to promote a community policing initiative, run jointly with state and federal officers.
The three agencies aim to cut through the bureaucratic confusion that plagues Mexico's multi-layered law enforcement system. They also want to increase the visibility of police around the rough edges of a city growing by about 90,000 people a year.
Tijuana police need all the help they can get to keep up with such staggering growth, and the crime that comes with it. A banner outside the police van urges residents to speak out against crimes in their neighborhoods: "We support ... you denounce!"