Monday, February 05, 2007

Police Tactics

San Miguel de Allende elected a new "Mayor" last Fall and he appointed a new Police Chief. As you would expect the new Chief has made some changes.

During the previous Chief's reign, he agreed to supply policemen to man police casetas or sub-stations in neighborhoods where the neighbors got together and provided a suitable building. Our neighborhood, Colonia San Antonio was one of the 'hoods that did just that.

But over time, Ned and I started feeling like the substation wasn't much help in preventing crime. Yes, there was a policeman or two in the station but they didn't leave the station to patrol and they didn't have a phone so you still called 066, the 911 emergency number in San Miguel, to report a crime or ask for help. They then would send police because the one man in the station couldn't leave it. Prior to the substation we saw more patrols through the neighborhood and we would hear the police on horseback clip-clopping down the street during the night. Somehow we felt safer before the sub-station.

The new Chief eliminated the substations and now has several movable trailers that are equipped for a substation with a bit more communication gear. Now he can move them to "hot spots" or into place during festivals. I think this is a good idea and I'm hoping it is going to work better.

The Chief said he was going to put more patrols in neighborhoods and we saw something Saturday night that we think is another new police tactic.....which probably wouldn't fly in the USA but we thought it was pretty interesting to watch from our second story window on the street.

The young men gather on the street at night, drink beer and talk. If you are thinking, "Oh, dear, that is terrible," just remember that these are tiny Mexican houses....they can't gather inside one of them. They can't go to bars because they can't afford that. They are young people...they just want to hang out and talk. Most of the time it is quiet although I'll admit that there have been a few times when someone would have too much and the talk would get loud or there would be a few punches thrown. It is that young testosterone, you know.

On Saturday night four or five guys were across from the Tienda quietly talking and drinking their beers. Suddenly a police pickup came roaring down the street, stopped beside them and about 10 booted-up, suited-up policemen piled out of the truck with their flashlights and billyclubs and had the young men against the wall and patted them down. Within minutes all the policemen were back in the truck and headed down the road and the young men were back to talking and drinking beer.

The policemen were obviously ready and organized to do this maneuver so we are scratching our heads as to what it was all about. Is this a new tactic in gang abatement, in looking for drugs, in letting the neighborhood know they are in charge? Or were they looking for a particular man? I don't know for sure but I don't think the term "probable cause" is a legal concept in San Miguel de Allende.


Anonymous said...

Napoleonic Law is the rule of the land around Mexico. Actually, I think there is little left of "probable cause" in the US these days ;-(


Cynthia said...

Billie, is security an issue and if yes, are there some areas of town that should be avoided?

Billie said...

Cynthia, We walk home at night and I feel safe. But we walk on well-lit streets where there is street life. I think you could get into some areas that are deserted and dark and might not be as safe. I don't know of areas around the centro that should be avoided. If there is a specific area that you are concerned about, I'll try to find out something for you.

Jonna said...

Here's my guesses. They were looking for a certain person known or maybe not known. Or, they were doing what is called "Flying the Flag". Letting the local potential problems know that they were in charge and that they were around and ready.

Probable Cause is part of English Common Law I believe, it is doubtful that it has any legal bearing in Mexico. I could be wrong though, I'm not a lawyer and wouldn't touch one if I saw one.

Even if it exists, complaining about it would not make any of those young guys lives any easier. Better to just cooperate and go back to what you were doing. In the back of their minds however, they do now know that the police are around and that they are proactive. Not a bad thing really, better than the opposite.