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The Ps at Work
Given the contemporary context of organized crime in Mexico, it would be plausible (P1) to reduce violence rather than to keep trying to concentrate efforts on fighting against the laws of the market.
As mentioned in the latter section, the expansiveness of the Sinaloa organization accounts for approximately half the number of deaths in Mexico since it has initiated turf wars against the Arellano Felix organization, and the Juarez and Beltran Leyva criminal organizations, which places the resulting violence on the strategic layer of the framework.
On the other hand, the Los Zetas organization not only expanded through a number of states and regions in a short period of time, but has done so using brutal violence. This has enabled the organization to move into other criminal activities that deeply affect society (extortion, human trafficking and kidnapping). Furthermore, this has paved the way for other criminal organizations to engage in these illicit activities and methods due to their profitability and effectiveness. Likewise, the current turf war of this organization with the Gulf accounts for 30 percent of the deaths in Mexico over the last two years.
These organizations are the main drivers of violence in Mexico; a potential strategy the Mexican authorities could use is to prioritize (P2) their efforts on either Sinaloa or the Zetas. In doing so, it would send a differentiated message to criminal organizations. For example, if Sinaloa is selected, it would send the message that expansion would not be tolerated. Or, if the Zetas are chosen, this would show that brutality and engaging in activities other than drug related ones would be heavily sanctioned by law enforcement agencies and not accepted.
Apparently, there is an effort of this kind on the way, however, it focuses mainly on capturing the leader of the Sinaloa organization. The problem with this is that, although his capture would certainly be capitalized as a major victory of the Calderon administration, it has the potential to generate more violence. The vacancy chain that it would generate could result in a major intra-organization turf war, as well as with rival organizations.
To avoid intra- and inter-turf wars, the Mexican government should be proactive against violence (P3) and not react to it. This strategy could be achieved with at least three tactics: (a) aim for simultaneous rather than sequential targets; (b) contain violence; and (c) conquer high intensity crime zones.
- Simultaneous targets: According to Williams and Kan, in order to avoid creating vacancy chains, law enforcement should adopt a broad targeting strategy which incrementally weakens groups, but does not create major perturbations in the illegal market.
One alternative to perform this action would be for law enforcement to parallel target the leader of the organization, lieutenants that might succeed him if removed, and as many assets from the organization as possible. The idea would be to perform DEA-like operations in which whole blocks of an organization and assets are removed at once. Operation Xcellerator would be a good example of how, after a 21-month investigation, 52 Sinaloa operatives were arrested throughout the United States, and 23 tons of illegal drugs and $59 million dollars were seized.
Although the federal government’s urge to show results and the widespread corruption within law enforcement agencies complicate creating operations like these, Mexican authorities should make every effort to minimize vacancy chains.
Over the last five months, the Mexican military seemed to have been moving towards this goal, since it has arrested seven regional leaders and one lieutenant from the Zetas organization. If this tactic is to be followed, these arrests should have been performed at the same time.
- Contain violence: federal deployments have occurred as a reaction to the outbreak of violence, and all of them are heavily publicized before they actually take place. The latter not only has a palliative effect, but also takes away the element of surprise for federal agencies. To prevent violence from erupting, one option would be to aim to preempt it by deploying immediately after (if not at the same time) an operation like the ones described in (A) takes place. The goal would be dual, on one hand, it would dissuade violent actions from operatives within the organization that received the blow, and it would prevent competing frenzies from rival organizations.
These operations could be complemented with two other tactics. First, current deployments react to violence, and they are in place in the state or city until it recedes. At this point, troops and federal police are sent to other locations where violence has emerged. They only come back to a city after violence has erupted again. Instead of reacting, federal troops could make preemptive comebacks to the city they intervened with a reduced number of men and for shorter periods of time (for example 250 men for periods of two weeks to one month) to deter groups that might be willing to generate violence.
Second, once deployed, patrolling is performed from several vehicles in convoy formation; because criminal organizations have street informants virtually everywhere, they are highly predictable. To disrupt this situation, Critical Response Vehicle (CRV) surges performed by the New York City Police Department could be a possible asset for federal deployments. Twice a day during weekdays and once on weekends, 76 police patrol cars (one from each police precinct) converge in a single random spot of Manhattan. These deployments have three advantages: to create an impressive and unpredictable show of force, to generate a state of readiness in police officers that could improve response to actual emergencies, and to incentivize cooperation with in the NYPD.
- Conquer high intensity crime zones: Although federal deployments do not have a predetermined duration, they mainly concentrate on motor vehicle patrolling of high intensity crime zones; as we have mentioned, there is a predictability disadvantage. Other flaws this tactic has are short-term effectiveness and minimal contact with citizens (after the convoy has gone through an area, criminal activity can be reassumed). To circumvent this situation, two tactics could be applied. First, implementing foot patrolling in these areas would have to be organized in a way that is not predictable and intensive, to allow a quick response and building up force in case of emergency.
Second, similar to the Colombian military and National Police in Comuna 13 in Medellin, they should stay in the community and perform an enhanced version of community policing operations. The combination of these methods would help protect citizens that have been affected by criminals, and take full control of a high intensity area, which could later on be handed over to local police forces.
Given the lack of local and state police capability to perform these actions, it could be expected that the army and navy personnel will be fighting criminal organizations in the long run. To reduce human rights violations and civilian casualties, and increase cooperation with the federal police, officers and military personnel performing law enforcement functions could receive training in law enforcement procedures, due process and human rights. As Kan states, the Italian experience might be useful in this matter, since the National Police and the military have been tasked to tackle the mafia organizations. In order to do so, both (police and military) were trained at the same academies, and they would potentially be willing to share the experience with Mexican authorities. Furthermore, a protocol to use lethal force in urban environments would also need to be developed in order to reduce the possibilities of military personnel incurring in situations in which civilians are mistakenly harmed.
Once the dissuasive side of the violence reduction strategy has been laid out, it is time to turn to the prevention (P4) of violence, as well as the reduction of risk factors associated with it. As the World Health Organization states, prevention is a much more cost effective option than repression. To implement it, it is necessary to address the causes of crime and violence and develop situational prevention measures to reduce opportunities for particular crimes and violence.
Although crime prevention strategies are part of the National Security Strategy, their actual implementation is complex in the Mexican violence context. The limited police capabilities municipal authorities have, and the institutional and electoral incentives under which local authorities operate are also a challenge to develop P4 policies. In Mexico, municipal authorities are elected for a three-year period without the possibility of reelection, which, after the second year in office, generates the incentive for authorities to look for the next available political activity.
To complicate matters further, according to the National Youth Survey 2010, Mexico has 33.6 million young men and women between the ages of 12 and 29; 2.3 percent of this population are inactive, which means they neither study nor work. This has created a mass population who see themselves without a future (going to school, forming a family, and growing old), who are living day-to-day, and willing to engage in any activity to supplement their income. It is important to note that 53 percent of this inactive population is concentrated in seven states (Mexico, Veracruz, Nuevo Leon, the Federal District, Jalisco, Michoacan and Sinaloa) and at least three of these states are deeply affected by organized crime violence (Nuevo Leon, Michoacan and Sinaloa).
The latter becomes relevant since criminal organizations are becoming an increasing risk factor for this specific youth bulge. As the Infants Rights Network state, some 30 thousand minors and young men and women have been recruited to become part of these criminal organizations (first as street informants or piracy salesmen, and then to perform more complicated criminal tasks like extortion, kidnapping, or contract killing).
In this context, crime prevention policies become relevant because dissuasive strategies such as those described in P2 and P3 would have little effect to deter them from becoming involved with organized crime as a means for financial support or social development.
The federal government has made important efforts to generate bottom-down crime prevention policies. These policies seek to develop situational and community crime prevention strategies, in order to reduce the domestic demand of drugs and to promote safe environments in public schools. As a result, over four thousand public parks, plazas, and sports centers have been renovated or created throughout the country, a network of 325 primary attention centers that aims to contain and reduce domestic drug demand has been developed, and over 36 thousands schools participate in the safe school program.
Without denying the relevance of these results, given the magnitude of the youth bulge and the increasing threat of organized crime to this segment of the Mexican population, it is of the utmost relevance to enhance these actions. The following strategies could help achieve this task:
- Enhance available options: the three levels of government should provide an overabundance of options for the almost three quarters of a million young men and women who are inactive to choose positive activities to get involved in. According to the National Youth Survey, 12.8 percent of young man and women have tried to start their own business, almost 70 percent know how to use the Internet, 80 percent use Facebook, 11.2 percent practice sports, and most trust universities; available options should concentrate on these elements. For example, Internet education programs would need to be increased, since it would appeal to those with Internet access and cater to youth. Given that Facebook is widely used, this social network could become the main source in advertising micro-loans and sports options, as well as a mechanism to coordinate activities in the communities where young people live.
The latter suggestions must not be restrictive. Options should be as diverse as possible and included a wide range of activities that might appeal to youth: street art workshops, personal defense courses, religious groups, skating tournaments, animal care, reading circles, board and video games, sports training lessons (basketball, soccer, football, baseball or tennis), among others.
- Increase coordination of federal agencies: over the last five years, the federal government has developed an important crime prevention network that is not well connected. Given the magnitude of the population in need of positive activities, the federal institutions in charge of operating these programs SEDESOL (Federal Office for Social Development: public spaces), SALUD (Federal Office of Health Services: demand reduction) and SEP (Federal Office for Education Services: safe school program) need to articulate their actions amongst each other. For example, SALUD could provide drug demand reduction talks in the parks SEDESOL has recovered, or SEP could make the necessary arrangements for people using SEDESOL public facilities to also use public school accommodations (schools in proximity of parks) for indoor workshops and training sessions. In exchange, SEDESOL could allow students from schools to use public parks to practice sports and use playgrounds.
Given that violence has also affected these prevention efforts (for example in July 2011, five teenagers were killed in a soccer field built by SEDESOL), coordination should also expand to federal law enforcement agencies (Federal Office of Public Safety-SSP and the General Attorney’s Office-PGR). This would provide protection, but in addition, community policing strategies could be implemented within the communities where SEDESOL, SALUD and SEP are working. Coordinating with law enforcement agencies is not enough, the Federal Sports Commission, the Federal Office of Labor, as well as other federal offices should also be involved.
Efforts of this kind have been attempted by federal authorities. The Todos somos Juarez (we are all Juarez) strategy is the most recent example in which all federal agencies were making an effort to reconstruct the social network and decrease violence in Ciudad Juarez. The main weakness of this strategy is the lack of continuous and coordinated effort. As one federal official stated, at the beginning we had weekly meetings in which all agencies briefed each other of the actions, which wasn’t necessarily for coordination purposes. Although each agency kept on implementing their programs, it’s been a while since we met. Likewise, another indicator of a lack of commitment is that the last public report of the strategy dates from February 2011, which contrasts with the previous monthly and bimonthly reports.
- Generate local appropriateness of these strategies: the top-bottom crime prevention strategies instrumented by the federal government are very useful. Crime prevention is most effective when local authorities implement them since they are the closest to citizens and have the best knowledge in regards to their needs, and where violence and crime problems are focalized. For this reason it is vital that local authorities get involved in developing crime prevention strategies and taking ownership of them. The Colombian program Departamentos y Municipios Seguros —DMS— (Secure State and Municipality program), which sought to develop local security with local strategies in coordination with citizens and central authorities, could probably be one of the best examples of this.
Another effort that could aid and assist the articulation of local efforts with federal programs is known as the Boston Miracle, which is the name of a violence reduction effort in high crime areas in Boston. It relied on social workers operating intensively on the streets to generate information about the needs of the youth and community regarding the authorities.
The strategies outlined above are less straightforward than the ones proposed in P2 and P3. This is most likely because crime prevention strategies are less flashy than crime deterrence tactics, and because it takes more time to show results. Nevertheless, the combination with crime deterrence activities will make for a more holistic approach that is expected to yield sound violence reduction results in the long run.
One element that is crucial for this violence reduction proposal, in order to achieve any success of the four Ps, is politics (P5). Politics is the main source in generating leadership and commitment to reduce violence in a sustainable and enduring manner.
Given the violence situation Mexico is going through, it is understandable how authorities have shown an inclination towards dissuasive actions (federal joint operations, high and low profile arrest and seizures) and have given less emphasis to effectively articulating them with preventive actions. For example, the public spaces rescue program implemented by SEDESOL from 2007 to 2008 reported an almost 20 percent increase in the perception of security of citizens that used the public spaces built by the program. Results like this could have easily been enhanced and expanded to other areas of the community if an effective articulation with other agencies and authorities could have taken place.
To accomplish the latter, politics plays a vital role. The required leadership and commitment that a violence reduction strategy needs must be materialized through the following actions:
- Active participation of political actors: policy makers need to be involved not only in the decision making process, but also in following up outputs and, if possible, in some parts of the actual implementation process.
The former Mayor of Bogota, Antanas Mockus, is the best example of active participation in designing and participating in the implementation of creative crime prevention strategies that involved citizens and authorities. His policies not only helped decrease citizens’ perception of insecurity, as well as violence, but were also politically profitable, and he came in second during the presidential election of 2010.
- Aim for the long run: Mexican authorities have had an inclination towards showing citizens results even if they are short term, and that might generate negative effects (vacancy chains). For this reason, it is advisable to aim for long lasting results. This can only be reached by committing to uphold violence reduction policies in a holistic way, which will require sufficient funds, human resources and above all, time.
Once again, Bogota is an example of how even with different administrations, the commitment of political actors to reduce violence helped reduce the murder rate from 80 homicides per one hundred thousand inhabitants in 1993 to 18 in 2007. Since Mexico will have federal elections in the summer of 2012, the following administration will have an excellent opportunity to continue and enhance the security programs that the Calderon administration has developed.
- Be inclusive: given the magnitude of the problem, Mexican authorities should look for every actor that could be willing to actively participate in reducing violence. State and local actors are crucial, and need to get involved (especially those in high violence state or cities), but also social, business, academic and religious groups need to vigorously participate not only to give their opinion, but also to assume responsibility for some part of the solution.
Although President Calderon has made an important effort to listen to all actors from Mexican society through the Security Dialogues (Diálogos por la Seguridad), they did not result in specific actions that the government or other members of society would implement. Without denying the importance of holding a constructive dialogue, it would have been best to generate a more proactive conversation in which, for example, the business community in Mexico could commit to provide funding for scholarships for young people to expand access to education, or religious leaders could pledge to become a source of communication between their communities and the authorities.
The Ps could be thought of as a two wheel wagon in which P2 and P3 would be one wheel and P4 would be the other one; P1 would provide direction and P5 would be the force that kept pulling the wagon forward. In other words, deterrence and preventive strategies need to go hand in hand, though in a strategic and efficient way. Their implementation needs to be understood as a flexible framework that should be modified according to the security situation in the state, municipality and neighborhood in in which it could be applied.
For example, although the Ps could be considered a national strategy, some of the tactics outlined in P3 are suitable for some states and cities but would certainly not be appropriate for others. Foot deployments and Comuna 13 style operations would be useful for some areas of Ciudad Juarez, Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo, but would not be efficient for Guerrero or Michoacan, where violence is spread out throughout the state.
Enhancing positive available options for youth is crucial for states like Sinaloa, Michoacan and Nuevo Leon (where the majority of inactive youth concentrates), but might not work so well in Tamaulipas, where the ongoing battle among the Zetas and the Gulf organization deters the participation of the population. In the case of Sinaloa, available sports options should definitely include baseball, since it is a very popular sport in that part of the country, as opposed to Michoacan, where soccer might have better acceptance among young people.
If education options are to be made available, food production related options must be available for Sinaloa and Michoacan, as both states are important fruit, vegetable and seafood producers, but in Nuevo Leon these options should change to be industry, related since this state is very industrialized.
The latter examples show that this strategy should not be understood as a one size fits all policy, but rather as one that is malleable and adaptable to state and local conditions. Only by doing this would authorities address the actual security and conditions that generate violence throughout Mexico.
In regards to coordination among federal offices, and to generate involvement of state and local authorities, one option would be to task a specific office to be in charge of organizing federal actions and communicate with local authorities, as well as to involve other social actors in the strategy (business, academic and religious community, as well as NGOs). This office would require not only a specific staff that would be in charge of following up actions throughout regions, states and cities, but would also have the financial assets to incentivize cooperation and coordination among agencies and states. As this office would have interaction with and compel coordination of almost every federal office, and also with state and local authorities, it would be best if it is located either under the direct supervision of the President of the Republic or, at least, under the direct supervision of one or two Secretaries (for example the Federal Office of Public Safety for the deterrence part of the strategy and SEDESOL for the preventive part)
The strategies and tactics outlined above are definitely not the only ones that could be implemented in a violent situation like the one Mexico is going through. Other issues that need to be considered if the strategy is to succeed are the impunity under which most homicides still happen (which in Mexico is mainly due to state competence), fighting police corruption in all agencies, speeding up training processes, reducing illegal arms trade and increasing money laundering actions against criminal organizations.
The following and last section of this paper will be devoted to outlining some actions that might help indicate if the authorities are heading in the right direction or if adjustments are required.
Measures of Effectiveness and Final Thoughts
Given the magnitude of the phenomenon Mexico is facing, it is important to sketch some elements to evaluate whether the violence reduction strategy is heading in the right direction. As well as tracking traditional indicators like murder and crime rates (extortion, kidnaping and car theft), it would be important to keep the following issues under close watch:
- Federal government generates a strategy that is not conceived in war related terms, but centered on providing security for the population and ensuring its wellbeing.
- Time span and number of arrests per law enforcement action, as well as presence of retaliation actions after they occur, might constitute an important way to evaluate how much a criminal organization was affected by the blow.
- Brutality and callousness of murders becomes an exception and not the rule.
- Decrease of the lethality of operations and civilian casualties, as well as an increase in arrest could also indicate that military, navy and federal police are focusing on law enforcement and due process.
- States deeply affected by violence and crime (Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Michoacan) see an increase in investment (domestic and foreign).
- People displaced by violence begin to return to their home states and cities.
- Reports of criminal activity (criminal check points, assaults, and car deft) on interstate highways begin to recede.
- Future National Youth Surveys show an increase in the young population engaging in positive activities that are of their interest.
- State and local authorities actively participate in the federal strategy, and even start developing preventive initiatives of their own.
- State authorities begin to prosecute high profile murders and obtain successful convictions from the judicial branch.
- Insecurity surveys begin to show an improvement in the security perception of citizens as well as in their confidence in law enforcement agencies.
- Social actors like business chambers, religious groups and NGOs actively promote the participation of the population in developing community initiatives across the country.
The latter are only some of the factors that a decision maker could take into consideration to evaluate the effectiveness of a strategy like the one this paper has put forth. Keeping track of this, as well as other outcomes, would be crucial to see if the results are the desired ones or if adjustments need to be performed. It would also be important to consider that, given that violence has had a differentiated impact in the states, it would be essential to observe how it evolves regionally, as well as within states and municipalities, to generate tailored adjustments for these areas.
Reducing violence in Mexico, and giving back the sense of security to its citizens, will not be an easy task and will require time, probing policies and tactics, evaluating and adjusting. Only by committing to working in the long run and adapting to continuous changes will Mexicans regain the security environment they are urgently pursuing.
 The Beltran Leyva organization, before separating from the Sinaloa Federation in 2008, was in charge of enforcing agreements and protecting routes. In fact, one of its operatives, Edgar Valdés Villarreal (A.K.A.: “La Barbie”) created enforcement groups such as “Los Negros” or “Los Pelones,” which used similar tactics to Los Zetas. Furthermore, La Familia Michoacana, which defected from Los Zetas, is well known for extorting and kidnapping citizens throughout the territories they control.
 Guillermo Valdes, op. cit.
 Juan Veledíaz, “Atrapar a “El Chapo” la operación de fin de sexenio” (Arresting of “El Chapo”, the final taks of this administration), Animal Político, October 3rd, 2011, http://www.animalpolitico.com/2011/10/la-operacion-del-fin-de-sexenio/
 The arrest of “El Chapo” would likely be capitalized by the South Pacific Cartel, which has an important presence in the region.
 Kan, Paul Rexton and Williams, Phil, op.cit. p. 229
 News Release, “Hundreds of Alleged Sinaloa Cartel Members and Associates Arrested in Nationwide Takedown of Mexican Drug Traffickers,” DEA, February 25, 2009.
 “En 5 meses han caido ocho jefes de Zetas” (In five months eight Zeta leaders have been arrested), Milenio, November 27, 2010. http://www.milenio.com/cdb/doc/noticias2011/8802d91867db36c0426a6f485846fad1
Phil Williams, Meeting with the NSC Secretariat, Mexico City, Power Point Presentation, November 25, 2008. One recent example is the deployment of 1,500 federal policemen to the city of Monterrey after a casino was set on fire with over 150 people, which resulted in over 52 people deceased and several more injured. This was not the first time the federal police were deployed. In 2007, after a wave of violence generated by organized crime, hundreds of federal police officers were deployed, although some military units remained in the city providing support for local enforcement agencies and performing their own operations.
 Christopher Dichey, “Securing the City: inside America’s best counterterror force – the NYPD”, (Simon & Shuster, New York, 2009) p. 109.
 Based on General Kilcullen’s Iraq deployment strategy of moving mounted and working dismounted. The advantages it offered are improved situational awareness and enabled contact with civilians. It should be performed with multiple small patrols (4-6 man teams) working 1,200 yards apart in one area which should allow for capacity build-up in case of an incident, and far enough apart not become a target. This also has the advantage of confusing the enemy, since they are not sure where all the teams are and where they are heading. Teams must have vehicle support and larger teams should be deployed in the periphery of the patrolled area.
 Hugo Acero, “Intervención de sitios de alta delincuencia y violencia”, Power Point Presentation, 2008.
 Paul R. Kan, op cit. p.13.
 In April 2010, military personnel mistakenly opened fire on a car in which a family was traveling after they failed to stop at a check point. As a result, two minors lost their lives. “Niños Martín y Brayan asesinados en Reten Militar,” Noticias MVS, April 14, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9ry6hlgSP4
 Actions to design and manipulate the community environment to reduce the probability of a felony and increase the risk of committing a crime. Felipe Salazar, “La Prevención Situacional del Delito en espacios urbanos públicos: el rol del gobierno local”, p. 196 in Bailey, John and Dammert Lucía, Seguridad y Reforma Policial en las Américas, Siglo XXI.
 World Health Organization, “Violence Prevention Hand Book”, 2004.
 National Youth Survey, 2010
 Interview with high ranking police official, op cit.
 “El Relevo Generacional de los Grupos Criminales” (The generational change in criminal groups), Milenio Semanal, November 27, 2011
 Quinto Informe de Gobierno, Estado de Derecho y Seguridad (Fifth Government Report, Rule of Law and Security) , http://www.informe.gob.mx/informe-de-gobierno/resumen-ejecutivo/estado-de-derecho-y-seguridad
 There is an ongoing debate among Mexican authorities and other institutions about the actual number of young people that neither study nor work. For example, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development recently stated that 7.2 million people are in this situation, which makes Mexico the third member from this organization with more inactive youth. Más de 7 Millones de ninis en Mexico: OCDE, Animal Político, September 13, 2011, http://www.animalpolitico.com/2011/09/ocde-ninis-7-millones-226-mil-mexicanos-de-entre-15-y-29-anos/
 Estrategia Todos somos Juarez, Reconstruyamos la Ciudad (We are all Juarez, lets rebuild the city), n.d, http://www.todossomosjuarez.gob.mx/estrategia/index.html
 Interview with federal public official, August 9, 2011.
Estrategia Todos somos Juarez, Reconstruyamos la Ciudad, Un año de avances,(We are all Juares, lest rebuild the city: one year of progress), February 17th, 2011, http://www.todossomosjuarez.gob.mx/estrategia/avances/avances_un_anio_seguridad.pdf
 Hugo Acero, “Proyecto consolidación de la gestión departamental y municipal de la convivencia y la seguridad ciudadana”, (State and Municipal citizen security consolitation proyect) 2006.
 Public Spaces Program, Power Point Presentation, October 2009.
 Hugo Acero, “Gestión Local de la Convivencia y Seguridad Ciudadana”(Local Management of Coexistance and Civil Security), Power Point Presentation, 2008.
 Diálogos por la Seguridad: Evaluación y Fortalecimiento, (Security Dialogues: Evaluating and Improvement), Office of the President, 2010 http://www.presidencia.gob.mx/infografias/2010/08/12/dialogos_por_la_seguridad/