VIVO program aims to improve neighborhood security
The local authorities have acknowledged that the crime statistics have increased in the city although they made it clear that this is because more people have begun reporting crimes.
The newest local strategy for fighting not just residential burglary but also muggings in the city—two of the most common crimes—is residents’ participation in the Programa Vecino Voluntario (Voluntary Neighbor Program, VIVO), which is part of the program Vecino Vigilante (Neighborhood Watch). Eleven people from different neighborhoods have been trained and will be working to involve more people in this program aimed at eradicating these crimes. In neighborhoods such as Colonia Guadalupe residents have asked the local authorities to block the exits of the streets that end at the arroyo of Las Cachinches.
The director of the local police, Gabriel Arturo Yáñez Saldaña, told Atención that the Neighborhood Watch program is a strategy for contributing to a decrease in crime,
adding the solidarity of neighbors to the security of locked doors and windows. This strategy is also aimed at making public spaces safer.
The concept of Vecino Vigilante is basically that neighbors look after each other, communicate among themselves and alert others of problems. In coordination with the preventive police, residents of a neighborhood work to minimize risks and simplify the reporting of crimes. To achieve the goals of this program, it is important to have several security measures in place: The inhabitants of a neighborhood or community must have the contact information of their neighbors, such as e-mail addresses, landline and cell phone numbers, and license plate numbers.
The inhabitants of each house hold an inspection to determine how vulnerable the house is to intrusion. In that inspection they check whether the doors are made of a strong material and have secure locks, whether the wall is high enough and has some type of security on top (such as nails, glass or wires), whether criminals could climb over and jump from the wall, and whether there is adequate lighting of the house, among other details. In addition to these risks assessments, neighbors find out which of them have alarm systems.
It is suggested that residents participating in the program post advertisements in strategic areas to let criminals know that they are organized and prepared to deter crime. The neighbors, along with personnel from the Public Security Department, walk through the area to detect conditions that could cause problems, such as lack of public lighting, lack of signs to identify the streets, and to see how easy it would be for a criminal to escape from the authorities. Finally, they also check whether there are exits for the residents to evacuate the area if necessary.
On February 13, the director of the Public Security Department handed over the documents of identification to 11 VIVO members. Although they do not have the authority of a police officer, they have the responsibility of calling the 066 emergency system when necessary. Yáñez Saldaña said that the VIVO members have a personal code that would be provided to the 066 operator, who thus will know that it is a legitimate emergency call. With that code the system can identify the VIVO member, and responders, if needed, will be dispatched immediately, while the VIVO member provides additional information to the operator.
The VIVO program
According to Marbella Pilar Martínez, who has lived in Colonia Guadalupe for 41 years, that neighborhood was a very safe place where people could walk at night and knew that nothing would happen to them. Currently, she said, there are muggings and residential burglaries, and for that reason she decided to get involved in VIVO and was elected by a neighborhood committee. She also wanted to ask for help from the local authorities to restore security in that area. Doña Reina Quiroz commented that she has lived in the neighborhood for more than 50 years. She remembered that when she built her house it did not have a door, only a piece of canvas, and nothing ever happened; a few months ago, the lock of her door was forced, but the criminals could not get into the house because the door has a second safety feature they did not know about. She also commented on that when she arrived in the colonia the streets that end at the arroyo of las Cachinches were protected by a wall, but over time that was destroyed. Now there is an easy way out for criminals.
Martínez said that one of the requests that citizens have for the local authorities is that the city rebuild the walls and clean up the arroyo. To reach an agreement about the wall, the neighbors in Guadalupe will hold a meeting with representatives of the Public Security, Ecology and Urban Development departments. The cleanup of the arroyo is already
being done by the Ecology Department.
Marbella Pilar also said that she has been holding several meetings with the neighbors to get them involved in the program, but they do not show interest in it despite the insecurity in the colonia. “Only neighbors from the nearby streets have come, and most of them are expats,” she said. The disinterest was confirmed by doña Ofelia Frías, who commented that she has lived in Guadalupe since 1967. On the matter of security, she said, “I do not know what happens outside, because I arrive home early and I do not go out again.”
Enrique Orvañanos has lived in the city for 12 years, seven of them in Los Frailes, where he participated as a Vecino Voluntario. Nowadays he lives in Tierra Mágica, on the road to Dolores. He said that someone broke into his place, but fortunately he arrived on time and nothing happened. Currently he is a VIVO member in the area, which is inhabited by eight families, most of them Mexican. In Tierra Mágica, said Orvañanos, they participate to prevent possible crimes and they help each other “because the police officers cannot be everywhere at the same time.” He said that the area is very tranquil now.
He added that he is very optimistic about the strategy, and the neighbors hold a meeting a month. They all have shared their contact information, and now they are considering the idea of sharing their keys with the neighbors. The next step, he said, is to involve the community of Vergel de los Laureles, which is next to Tierra Mágica. He also said that now they feel more secure because the patrols go by once a day and they have to sign a log book, which, he said, helps keeps criminals away from their places “because when they notice that the residents are organized, they have second thoughts before trying to do something,” he finished.
How to get involved in the program
The VIVO members are from Colonias Independencia, Providencia, Centro Histórico, Adolfo López Mateos, Santa Cruz de la Paz and la Lejona, among others. To get more information go to the offices of the local police located on Boulevard de la Conspiración 130 (the yellow building).