Mexico City crawls with cops. Mayor Marcelo Ebrard made crime reduction a priority and apparently he is succeeding. I'm impressed with the increased visible police presence: I can't imagine criminals attempting a robbery when there's at least one policeman on every block-long section of street—and often more.
Note how they're all wearing ballistic vests. Years ago when I first saw this practice, I thought it was a little over the top; a sign of excessive love for uniforms, combat gear, and militaristic deportment. Form instead of function. But after reading about drug related violence, I think perhaps they're not well enough protected. Where are their Kevlar helmets?
Police ride around in the backs of pickup trucks, a transportation method borrowed from campesinos. It's not safe. It's illegal in California. I've actually witnessed people catapulted over the hood of a truck during a low-speed rear-ender. In Mexico City, it's illegal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, but riding in the back of a pickup, without a helmet even, is OK.
These police are riding on Pino Suarez in an area chock full of computer and tech gear stores. They're just loaded with goodies perfect for fencing; tempting for those whose money and crack have run out. The police strategy here is to saturate the neighborhood. In this block-long stretch, I counted twelve cops on foot plus those in the truck.
Then there's the threat posed by striking teachers and electricians. The risk probably is real. A lot of unhappy people have gathered in a small area. They've shut down roads and the Zócalo. Motorists' tempers have frayed. Eruption of a large-scale disturbance isn't out of the realm of possibility.
A precedent for using the army to augment police has been set in the border cities and other narcotrafiacnte hot spots. Hell, a year or two ago in Tijuana, the Army arrested the whole damn police department—took away their guns.
I've seen maybe a dozen troop carriers like this one in the last day or so. Somebody in the administration is worried.
Cops on horseback are a practical solution to the paucity of roads in Chapultepec Park. The big sombreros are a nice touch. These guys are smiling because they know they've got a soft berth. They could be bumping along in the back of a pickup truck after all.
I've seen cops in patrol cars and cops on bicycles too. But this is one of those moments that's too good to pass up: a cop on a Segway talking to a half-naked guy wearing silver paint. The policeman doesn't look happy. The guys probably don't have their buskers license or something.
All the police on the street have produced a Mexico City that feels safer to me than New York City. I read somewhere that after his success in reducing New York crime rates, Rudy Giuliani hired on as a consultant to the Mexico City government. Perhaps some of the changes I'm seeing can be attributed to his influence.
Whatever the cause, I find myself enjoying Mexico City worry-free. Twenty years ago I didn't.