(In)Security and Policing in a Marginalized Mexico City Neighborhood: Perceptions, Experiences and Practices

Müller, Markus-Michael

Reflecting a more general regional trend in the rise of urban crime and violence throughout Latin America (IBRD 2008; Koonings and Kruijt 2007a; Rotker 2002), since the mid 1990s, Mexico City witnessed a "metropolization of crime" (Castillo 2008: 181). Although official statistics indicate a tendential decline of reported crime rates since the late 1990s, victimization studies question these statements (Alvarado 2007), and according to a recent study on urban insecurity in Mexico, 87% of Mexico City residents feel unsafe in their city, ranking Mexico City at the top of all other large urban agglomerations in the country (ICESI 2008). As a result, according to local opinion polls, security issues have become the central concern for most of the Mexico City residents—and policy makers. Therefore, it seems undeniable that "[t]he single-most relevant issue on the urban agenda today is fear" (Castillo 2008: 181). However, this development is not only a reflection of a perceived increase in crime. This situation is also closely related to serious problems regarding the Mexico City police forces, which include the lack of adequate human resources and training; high turnover rates; a lack of vocational ethics; deficient and outdated equipment; police corruption; the absence of a clear normative framework of action; and the direct participation of police agents in organized (and unorganized) crime, violence and human rights violations (Pansters and Castilo Berthier 2007; Piccato 2007; Silva 2007; Azaola 2006; Davis 2006; Naval 2006; López-Montiel 2000; Martínez Murguía 1999). Though the local police institutions have increasingly attracted attention from NGO activists and academic scholars, who have accumulated substantial knowledge regarding the problems of the local public security apparatuses, detailed empirical analysis of the daily encounters between police and the residents of Mexico City, which can be expected to be the principal setting where the abovementioned problems unfold, are still the exception.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute of Latin American Studies
Published Here
January 21, 2010


Presented at "Crime, Insecurity, Fear in Mexico: Ethnographic and Policy Approaches: An Interdisciplinary Workshop," Columbia University, November 13-14, 2009.