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SURVEILLANCE  March 2011

SURVEILLANCE March 2011

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Subject:

CCTV in Mexico City

From:

Aaron Martin <[log in to unmask]>

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[log in to unmask]

Date:

Tue, 8 Mar 2011 08:04:30 -0000

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From p.2 of this morning's FT. Lots of interesting bits.

Best,
Aaron

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/84c057a8-48ea-11e0-af8c-00144feab49a.html

Mexico City focuses on CCTV to combat crime

By Adam Thomson in Mexico City

Published: March 7 2011 20:31 | Last updated: March 7 2011 20:31

María Carrera Rodríguez has been going to Mexico City’s historic centre for as long as she can remember. But since the capital’s leftwing government installed security cameras there, she has never felt safer.

“This used to be a rough place,” she says, while taking her elderly mother for spiritual cleansing by one of the several semi-naked shamans standing around the main square. “Now I feel protected.”

During the past year, 6,200 security cameras have been positioned in Mexico City’s busiest and traditionally most dangerous areas. Another 1,800 will be installed by December.

Fausto Lugo, who runs the project for the local government, claims this will give the city more government-owned cameras than any other. And a plan to incorporate into the scheme an additional 100,000 privately owned surveillance cameras already in use will turn Mexico’s capital into the most monitored city in the world.

“For its complexity, solidity and the speed with which we are doing it, this project has no rival,” he says.

The initiative, called Safe City, borrows experience and technology from places as diverse as Seoul, London, Jerusalem and Chicago, and comes as Mexico experiences a crime spike arising from the government’s war on drugs cartels.

In the past four years, more than 34,000 people have been killed following the deployment of almost 50,000 soldiers and thousands of federal police around the country, which has disrupted the cartels’ operations.

The upheaval has produced a wave of killings, both within crime organisations, as members jostle to fill power vacuums, and between them as various criminal groups fight for control of smuggling routes into the US. It has also forced many criminal groups to diversify away from drug trafficking into extortion, kidnapping, car theft and even intellectual piracy.

Mr Lugo believes Mexico City’s extra vigilance could act as an effective deterrent to the crime wave that is affecting many other urban centres in the country.

“The police muscle that we already have to combat organised crime is very big, and all this network of information from cameras ... allows us to make our operations and response times even more effective,” he says.

A visit to one of Mexico City’s five surveillance centres certainly suggests the architects were mindful of the drugs war when drawing up the plans.

Hidden behind the antique wall of what used to be a fire station, rows of police officers keep vigil from within a building whose concrete walls have been reinforced to withstand attacks from assault rifles and even rocket-propelled grenades.

For the most part, however, the system is designed to reduce petty crime, catch people who have just committed a crime and, importantly for a city in a prominent earthquake zone, to help co-ordinate the response to natural disasters.

Mr Lugo says that, since the cameras came online, average response times for police units arriving at a crime scene have fallen from 12 minutes to about five. The aim, he says, is to get that down to less than three.

Already there are signs that the system is working. According to the Mexican Association of Insurance Companies, car theft in the capital fell 7.5 per cent last year compared with 2009. On a national level, by contrast, it jumped an alarming 16.6 per cent.

Mr Lugo says that, in one of the areas where cameras are operating, crime fell 35 per cent between last October and last January, compared with the same period 12 months before.

At a cost of $459m, not everyone is happy with the investment.

Andrea de la Cadena, a 19-year-old student with dreadlocks, three tattoos and safari-style clothes, says the cameras risk giving the city a “Big Brother” feel of being permanently watched.

She complains that she was caught on video and fined for taking her rubbish on to the street outside of permitted hours. “The worst thing about it was that the police wouldn’t even accept a bribe because they said that the cameras would record it,” she says.

But Eduardo Sánchez, a 37-year-old photographer, is adamant it is money well spent.

“I always thought that taxes didn’t work in this country,” he says as he sips coffee at a sidewalk café in Mexico City’s upcoming Roma neighbourhood.

“But I was mugged last year and, thanks to those cameras, the police arrested the thieves. That has never happened to me before.” 


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