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Addressing an Ambivalent Relationship: Policing and the Urban Poor in Mexico City

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 May 2012

Abstract

This article analyses citizen–police relations in the marginalised Mexico City borough of Iztapalapa. It demonstrates that despite predominantly negative perceptions about and experiences with the police, local residents do not abandon state institutions as security providers. The article claims that as formal and informal access to the legal and coercive powers of the police provides an important resource for local residents needing to resolve individual or collective security problems and conflicts in their favour, local police forces continue to be addressed and imagined by residents as relevant security actors.

Spanish abstract

Este artículo analiza las relaciones entre los ciudadanos y la policía en la delegación marginada de Iztapalapa en la Ciudad de México. El material demuestra que pese a las predominantemente negativas percepciones sobre experiencias con la policía, residentes locales no abandonan a las instituciones estatales como proveedoras de seguridad. El artículo asegura que en la medida que el acceso formal e informal a los poderes legales y coercitivos de la policía provee recursos importantes a residentes locales que necesitan resolver problemas de seguridad individual o colectiva, las fuerzas policíacas locales continúan siendo referidas e imaginadas como actores de seguridad relevantes.

Portuguese abstract

O artigo analisa as relações cidadão/polícia no bairro marginalizado de Iztapalapa, Cidade do México. Demonstra que apesar das percepções e experiências predominantemente negativas com relação à polícia, os residentes locais não abandonam as instituições estatais como provedoras de segurança. O artigo afirma que como o acesso formal e informal aos poderes legais e coercivos da polícia fornecem um recurso importante para moradores que necessitam resolver problemas de segurança individuais ou coletivos em seu favor, as polícias locais continuam a ser vistas e imaginadas como relevantes atores de segurança.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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References

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23 Müller, Markus-Michael, Public Security in the Negotiated State: Policing in Latin America and Beyond (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 80–1, 92–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar; de Murguía, Beatriz Martínez, La policía en México: ¿orden social o criminalidad? (Mexico City: Planeta, 1999), pp. 4956Google Scholar.

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26 Naval, Irregularidades.

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28 On policing and rent-seeking structures, see Davis, ‘Political and Economic Origins’, p. 50.

29 José Castillo, ‘After the Explosion’, in Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic (eds.), The Endless City (London: Phaidon, 2008), p. 181.

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32 The degree of marginality takes into account questions of education, income, patrimony of the household and quality of the dwelling. These are divided up into six indicators: residents aged 15 and over without junior high school degree; employed residents with a monthly work-related income up to two minimum wages; residences without a telephone; residences without ground lamination; residences without indoor tap water; and average number of people sharing a bedroom. Data taken from www.siege.df.gob.mx/copladet/index.html (no longer available).

33 The current minimum wage is 52.59 Mexican pesos a day or 1,598.736 pesos a month, which is roughly US$ 120.

34 Delegación Iztapalapa (Dirección General de Desarrollo Social), ‘Reglas de Operación 2008’ (Mexico City: Delegación Iztapalapa, 2008), p. 3.

35 Secretaría de Seguridad Pública del Distrito Federal (SSPDF), ‘Delegación Iztapalapa’ (Mexico City: SSPDF, 2007); Verónica Gil Montes and Angélica Rosas Huerta, ‘Seguridad pública en Iztapalapa: un acercamiento institucional’ (Mexico City: Instituto Ciudadano de Estudios Sobre Inseguridad, 2005), available at www.icesi.org.mx/documentos/propuestas/iztapalapa_acercamiento_seguridad_publica.pdf.

36 The policing of youth cultures is closely related to growing political concerns about ‘youth violence’ and ‘gangs’ in Mexico, which increasingly portray such aesthetic ‘deviance’ as a ‘security threat’. Héctor Castillo Berthier and Gareth A. Jones, ‘Mean Streets: Youth, Violence and Daily Life in Mexico City’, in Jones and Rodgers (eds.), Youth Violence, pp. 183–202.

37 All names throughout this article are pseudonyms.

38 Philip Pettit, ‘Republican Theory and Political Trust’, in Valerie Braithwhite and Margaret Levi (eds.), Trust and Governance (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2003), pp. 297–8.

39 On the social dynamics of drug trafficking in Iztapalapa, see Carlos Alberto Zamudio Angles, ‘Las redes del narcomenudeo: cómo se reproducen el consumo y el comercio de drogas ilícitas entre jóvenes de barrios marginados’, unpubl. master's thesis, Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico, 2007.

40 Müller, Public Security, pp. 186–8.

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43 Although the block leaders were abolished in the 1990s, many residents continue to refer to their successors, the representatives of the so-called neighbourhood committees, by this name.

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50 Arias, Enrique Desmond, ‘Faith in our Neighbors: Networks and Social Order in Three Brazilian Favelas’, Latin American Politics and Society, 46: 1 (2006), pp. 34Google Scholar; Huggins, Martha K., ‘Urban Violence and Police Privatisation in Brazil: Blended Invisibility’, Social Justice, 27: 2 (2000), pp. 113–34Google Scholar.

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