The State of Morelos and its capital Cuernavaca have emerged as leaders in Mexico’s quest for improved security. The state and the “city of eternal spring” have long been beacons for national and international tourism. But foreigners have been more reluctant visitors in recent years, frightened by alarmist publicity abroad on crime in Mexico. The current focus on improving security promotes not only the well-being of state residents but is critical to attracting investors and tourists and bolstering the state’s economy.
Governor Graco Ramírez has put the campaign against violence and delinquency at the top of his agenda. Morelos has been one of the leaders in promoting the Mando Único or Unified Command for all agencies of state security. The goal is a unified structure coordinating all Federal, State, and Ministerial Police, Investigative and Criminal Police, the 24th military zone, the prosecutor general of the Republic, Civilian Protection (fire and rescue), and medical emergencies. Any citizen calling 066 seeking assistance or making a complaint is immediately directed to the proper agency. By February 2015, 30 of 33 municipalities in the state had integrated their operations under a single command covering over 95 percent of the state population. The adhesion of other communities is pending.
In his emphasis on the Unified Command, Governor Ramírez is implementing a goal of President Enrique Peña Nieto whose security priority is Mando Único for the entire country, consolidating 32 state police agencies and hundreds of municipal police forces into a single entity. Graco Ramírez thus provides significant advocacy for the presidential initiative that has been endorsed also by Mexico City Regent Miguel Ángel Mancera and Nuevo León Governor Rodrigo Medina, all three of whom appeared recently before the Mexican Senate that will deliberate the national plan in February.
Central to the success of the Mando Único is the purging of local police forces by reviewing performance, drug testing, exams of confidence, and transparency in personal wealth. Thanks to the work of state and municipal authorities, hundreds of police have been decommissioned and replaced by more professionally trained recruits to be part of the unified command. Professionalization programs have also included workshops on human rights, an area of frequent press scrutiny. Governor Ramírez also announced in early February the construction of a Judicial City in Xochitepec in 2015 to enhance the program of judicial reform indispensable to combatting delinquency.
The campaign for security has included investments in infrastructure like the construction of several new police barracks and the provisioning of new equipment and technology. The most significant investment has been the innovative system of video-vigilance in the city and state. In November 2014 Morelos launched its state-of-the-art operation called C5, the Center of Coordination, Command, Control, Communication, and Computing. The system deploys over 400 video cameras at strategic locations in 26 municipalities of the state covering 93 percent of the population. The number of cameras deployed will eventually reach 1200. A huge investment from state and federal funding and bank loans has financed the operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The operation integrates the actions of the Mexican army, federal and state police agencies, Mando Único, and related agencies to monitor, suppress, and prevent criminal activity. The cameras can monitor both vehicle and pedestrian activity. State Security Secretary Alberto Capella Ibarra reported that on the first day of operations the cameras facilitated the arrest of two suspected kidnappers and the rescue of a victim.
The State’s C5 is also working with fiber-optic technology to better coordinate with its counterpart C3 in the city of Cuernavaca, launched in December 2014 by Mayor Jorge Morales Barud. The Secretariat of Citizen Security operates the Center for Computing, Communication, and Command that has installed cameras in 27 locations on principal streets of the city and coordinates various security agencies in the capital. Plans are to add 50 more cameras during 2015.
These advances have been under the radar and little reported outside Morelos, but Reforma noted (Feb. 8) that the budget for security has tripled under Governor Ramírez and cited his recent informe crediting the restructuring under Mando Único for a drop in the incidence of high-impact crime, especially homicide, kidnapping, and extortion. CNN Mexico online reported (Jan.26) that 65 percent of the homicides in Mexico in 2014 occurred in just ten states, and Morelos was not among them. Cuernavaca city authorities also claim significant declines in reported delinquency.
Given the noticeable improvements in security in the state and its capital, and a perception among local residents that crime is on the wane, a non-governmental report claiming Cuernavaca is the most violent city in Mexico came as a shock to officials and residents. The report published online February 9 by the Citizens Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice, “Cuernavaca Tops the List of Mexico’s Most Violent Cities,” cited statistics on reported crimes to pronounce Cuernavaca more dangerous than Acapulco or Chilpancingo. The conclusions were repeated in English in the Latin American Herald Tribune February 21.
Given the chaos in Chilpancingo, capital of Guerrero state, and the large number of criminal gangs operating in Acapulco that caused federal police to move forces into that city, one can imagine that unreported crimes in those cities are more frequent. In addition, the statistics for the year 2014 would not show the improvements in security in Morelos and Cuernavaca that began late in the year thanks to Mando Único, C5, and C3. Multiple requests to state and city security officials for specific data refuting the report have gone unanswered. But future statistical comparisons should be more favorable given the security improvements noted here.
Citzens want assurance that crime levels are dropping. Investors need security as much as potential profits before committing their capital. And tourists seek certainty that their destinations are safe. So there is much to be gained on those three fronts by the increased emphasis on security issues, declining delinquency, and police and judicial reform in Morelos. The city and the state have shown significant leadership in translating those goals into reality.
Fotos cortesía de la Comisión Estatal de Seguridad Pública de Morelos.