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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


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.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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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 (no longer available).

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37 All names throughout this article are pseudonyms.

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