My plan to make Mexicans safer

When I was mayor of Mexico City, I led a comprehensive strategy to improve the security of the capital’s residents. The results were impressive: between December 2018 and June 2023 the average daily number of intentional homicides fell by 51%, returning to levels seen before the four-year spike that immediately preceded the new strategy. Crimes classed as “high-impact” fell by 58% and violent vehicle theft by 69%.

The strategy that made these achievements possible rested on four pillars. The first involved focusing on the cause of insecurity with youth programmes introduced by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and other social programmes I implemented in Mexico City to improve well-being and break the vicious cycle of violence. In addition, I created two new public universities that now have more than 50,000 students, and 294 community centres known by their Spanish acronym, PILARES, where people, especially the young, have access to education, sports, cultural activities and vocational training.

The second pillar was to professionalise police officers, increasing their wages and strengthening the process of evaluating performance. The third was to invest more in police intelligence and investigation. And the fourth was to strengthen co-operation between the institutions in charge of security: the police, the attorney-general’s office and the National Guard, a federal security force. The main purpose was to eradicate impunity. In Mexico only 70% of reported crimes result in any investigation, and only around half of those cases lead to action.

This is the approach to security that will yield results across Mexico: one that emphasises peace-building, addresses the root causes of violence, social abandonment and vulnerability, and eradicates impunity. This is a complete departure from the scourge of the failed “war” on drug-trafficking declared by the federal government in 2006.

The statistical record is clear. During the “war” against criminal activity, homicides skyrocketed from 8,867 in 2007 to 36,685 in 2018. A former Secretary of Public Security in charge of the “war” for several years has since been convicted in the United States of drug-related crimes.

In 2018 President López Obrador undertook a radical shift to bring peace to the country. The main thrust of his strategy is to address the root causes of insecurity: poverty, marginalisation and a lack of opportunities for young people. As a result, homicides in Mexico, while still high, have fallen: the 29,675 recorded in 2023 was around 20% less than the number in 2018.

The goals of eradicating impunity and establishing lasting social peace can only be achieved through justice in its broadest sense. I am the only presidential candidate in the 2024 election with experience and tangible results when it comes to enhancing public safety on a large scale. Drawing on the success achieved in Mexico City, I would construct a national peace-and-security strategy with the following actions.

The first would be to address the causes of insecurity with special attention to youth. We will expand the capacity of universities and high schools so they can guarantee access to education, and we will expand nationally programmes that have been successful in Mexico City. Programmes in the capital such as Jóvenes Unen al Barrio (Youth Uniting Neighbourhoods) were designed to keep young people away from violence by offering incentives to keep them in education and employment, to give them a sense of belonging to a community.

The second part of the strategy is to strengthen the National Guard—a relatively new force, created by President López Obrador in 2019—so its units have close relationships in the communities where they are based. The objective is to improve surveillance, the capacity to arrest criminals and co-ordination on intelligence and investigations.

The third part is to make intelligence and investigation more proactive. This will involve the creation of a National Intelligence System for public security. This will give public attorneys’ offices and law enforcers better access to the information and intelligence they need to investigate crime and detain criminals.

Fourth, we need better co-ordination between the different branches of law enforcement and the justice system, including state police, local prosecutors’ offices and the national attorney-general’s office. In a first for Mexico, I will draw up national plans for police forces and prosecutors. These will include protocols and training to ensure that all forces respect human rights as they carry out their duties, and that women who report crimes are not re-victimised during the criminal-justice process. These measures will help reduce discrimination and increase access to justice.

I am determined to contribute to building a country that is peaceful and offers social justice to all. We will do so through a comprehensive plan that tackles the causes of insecurity and ends impunity.

Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo is the candidate of the ruling Morena party in Mexico’s presidential election.

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