The Department of Justice-Attorney General’s Office (PGJ) of the capital is investigating 59 complaints about crimes against health occurred in the Mexico City Metro (officially called Sistema de Transporte Colectivo Metro) between January and August. Through the Transparency Law, it is evident that the department is also digging into hundreds of cases linked to robberies, attempted homicides, sexual harassment, kidnappings, and abuses of authority.


Attempted murders, rape, sexual violence, kidnapping, crimes against health, robberies, and abuse of power appear in the extensive list of crimes that occurred at the detriments of users and employees of the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo Metro (STC) in Mexico City. All these crimes have ended up in complaints before the Department of Justice of the Attorney General’s Office of the capital.

Only from January to August 2019 they started 59 checking processes for crimes against health, discloses the Deputy Attorney General’s Office of the Decentralized Preliminary Inquiry Department (Subprocuraduría de Averiguaciones Previas Desconcentradas) through the Transparency Law. These crimes are described in the Penal Code as follows: “the production, possession, trafficking, proselytism as well as other acts related to narcotics. The risk of transmission of a venereal disease or any other ailment during the infective period that jeopardizes the health of others, and crimes against reproductive rights».

Throughout the same period, they reported a homicide and a kidnapping within the facilities of the main collective transportation in Mexico City that on business days registers up to 5 million tickets on average. Another high-impact crime was a rape (without detention) that occurred at the Hidalgo metro station.

Moreover, they opened 230 investigations for sexual abuse from January 1 to August 31 this year, informs the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Investigation on Sexual Crimes (Fiscalía Central de Investigaciones para la Atención de los Delitos Sexuales) of the PGJ. This figure outnumbered the cases of sexual harassment registered from January to December 2018, which were 227 in total.

In the first eight months of 2019, the stations presenting more cases of sexual abuse with detention were: Pino Suárez with eleven (along with other two cases with no arrested person), Chabacano with eight (along with one without a prisoner), Pantitlán, with seven instances (and six with no prisoner), Tacubaya, presenting six cases (and two without detention), Jamaica, with six, Salto del Agua with five, Hidalgo with four (and five with no arrested person), San Lázaro with four (and one with no arrested person), Bellas Artes, Merced, and Zapata, respectively with four.

Moreover, the Public Prosecutor’s Office dealing with sexual crimes relates another 35 cases – without specifying the station where they took place – 28 of which had the responsible people arrested. In contrast, in the remaining cases, no one was imprisoned.

Through the Transparency Law, the Deputy Attorney General’s Office of the Decentralized Preliminary Inquiry Department shows Contralínea that in the period running from January to August, they opened prior inquiries for seven cases of attempted homicide, two attempted kidnappings and two instances of abuse of authority.

Doctor David Ramírez, an expert in the sociology of crime, explains that «crime mainly occurs» at intermodal transport hubs (in Spanish: Centros de Transferencia Modal- Cetram) and metro transfers. He explains that it is due to the increase in people flows, the incorrect design or modification of the space to discourage criminal activity, and, in general, the lack of space planning.

Theft inside the Metro is the crime that passengers primarily suffer. Indeed, from January to August, the Attorney General’s Office recorded 2,485 complaints. In 2018, 4,586 investigation files were opened for that illicit, shows the information provided by the Directorate-General for Criminal Policy and Statistics.

Contralínea requested an interview with Attorney General Ernestina Godoy Ramos, and the head of the Criminal Policy and Statistics area to know the status of these complaints. However, the Social Communication area of ​​the PGJ indicated that leaders were not releasing interviews with the media.


Lack of vigilance

One of the main issues of the Metro System is the lack of security measures. The Master Plan of the Metro (Plan Maestro del Metro) shows that there are a total of 872 guards to cover the security requirements of the service.

The official document admits that such a number of police officers «is insufficient considering that only 404 operates directly in the lines and stations of the Service Network. Therefore, it considerably limits the timely response to the accidents that arise daily and that are inherent to a transportation system of the magnitude of the STC”.

Such a network is made up of 195 stations. It follows that, on average, there are two guards per stop. Despite conflictive stations, generally, the officers are at the turnstile area. However, in some stations such as Indios Verdes, Pantitlán, Hidalgo, Tláhuac, Observatorio, Pino Suárez and San Lázaro, vigilance is much higher (up to 20 guards distributed at the entrances, exits, and platforms.

The sociologist of crime David Ramírez considers the vigilance system as the main accountable factor for the insecurity occurring in the metro. He argues that the problem cannot be solved only by increasing the number of police officers. It is instead crucial to improve the technological capacities of monitoring, follow-up, and we have to design reaction capacities.”

According to the researcher of the civil organization México Evalúa, achieving security in this transportation is an «enormous challenge» for the authorities. Among the transportation systems, it is in the metro that the most significant incidence of delinquency of the state jurisdiction occurs.

He adds that “the characteristics of this service require detection, deterrence and prevention strategies specifically designed for that context.”

The Metro authorities have implemented actions to counter arrest the incidence of crimes such as women-only coaches, the revision of users’ backpacks and luggage, and the usage of whistles. Nonetheless, Doctor David Ramírez believes that such measures, in reality, do not address public politics development and planning. It is necessary to make a diagnostic and generate a proposal for a long-lasting solution based on it. «It is necessary to rethink the problem.»

The 2013-2018 Diagnostic on the service and facilities of the Collective Transportation System (Diagnóstico sobre el servicio y las instalaciones del Sistema de Transporte Colectivo 2013-2018), redacted by the Metro authorities and state government, shows that “the high number of users facilitates antisocial or inappropriate behaviors, conflicts among people or accidents.» The flow of people in the metro almost reaches 5 million users daily.

Currently, during the administration of Claudia Sheinbaum, the 2018-2030 Master Plan of the Metro shows that it is vital to train the surveillance staff. The training should focus on the following subjects: «chain of custody, citizen attention from the public sector, leadership in the public service, first aid, vigilance of goods and people and primary care of an adverse event.»

Contralínea requested an interview with the director of the Metro, Florencia Serranía Soto, to dig into these strategies and crimes incidence. However, by press time, no answer was received.

Doctor Ramírez sustains that it is essential to fight what criminologists denominate «criminal opportunities» to create an effective vigilance system. In the case of the metro, he shows that reduced spaces, scarce lighting, and limited police presence enhance these opportunities. «An action of prevention, reaction, and containment of insecurity in such reduced spaces should avoid creating criminal opportunities.»

The 2019 National survey on victimization and insight into public security (Encuesta nacional de victimización y percepción sobre seguridad pública 2019) revealed that public transportation is the space where adult people feel unsafe the most. Some data from the same survey show that from 2017 to 2018, a little less than 300 thousand people stopped using public transportation because of the fear of being robbed.

In Mexico City, robberies on streets or public transportation have been increasing. In 2018 there were 31 thousand 45 robberies each 100 thousand inhabitants; in 2017, 30 thousand 449, whereas in 2016, 22 thousand 90.


Sexual violence, a problem detected 49 years ago

Among the “criminal opportunities” that must be fought, there are those linked to sexual and gender-based violence. According to Karen Sánchez Rodríguez, a sociologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the metro lacks security measures to address this issue.

«The police officers who work in the metro tend to say that their job consists of taking care of facilities but not you [the user]. You realize that they believe that taking care of users is not part of their tasks.»

The 2013-2018 Diagnostic on the service and facilities of the Collective Transportation System shows that the task of the institutional security of the metro is «to preserve the physical integrity of STC users, through the organization, supervision, and control of vigilance and security services. The latter could prevent or timely address illegal acts within the facilities of the Service Network through internal civil protection and industrial safety and hygiene programs.

As for the author of the thesis entitled Violence Experience and mobility of young women across the metro in Mexico City (Experiencias de violencia y movilidad de mujeres jóvenes en el metro de la Ciudad de México), security guards are not responsible for this issue. However, it is the authorities of the metro who are not training them to address the users’ demand.

The sociologist Karen Sánchez adds that “when female users request a man to get off [a coach], it happened that someone says: «Get off, as the woman asked so.» It is not a whim; it is institutionalized. There is a reason behind».

She also adds that in this means of transport, different kinds of sexual violence regularly happen to women. Therefore, she says that “‘women only’ coaches have been effective; they indeed serve their purpose to make women feel safe. Nonetheless, if the problem is analyzed from a cultural perspective, exclusive coaches have existed since 1970. It is hence legit to question how many more years have to pass to use the metro together».

The impact of these exclusive coaches on the population is worrisome, the sociologist considers, «as we are used to thinking that mixed coaches are for men only. Hence, as soon as the program has been disclosed, many men commented on the Internet: «Well, if they wish, we avoid using their exclusive coaches. Nonetheless, they do not have to use ours, either.» It is serious because mixed feelings arise, especially considering the way the male population has understood the program».

The 2019 Strategic Plan on gender and mobility – drafted by the Ministry of Mobility – shows in its strategic axis the solutions to reduce sexual violence and harassment to women in the metro and other services (Metrobus, the network of passenger transportation and electric transport service). That is to say, the creation of safe facilities, appropriate surveillance, training, and awareness for prevention and effective care, effective response protocols, and an approved information system on cases of sexual violence and aggression towards women.


Table drafted by Karen Sánchez, based on the document entitled Gender-based violence in public spaces. An analysis of the Metro in Mexico City.

The metro failed the security test

The 2013-2018 Diagnostic on the service and facilities of the Collective Transportation System shows that the effectiveness of the actions aiming to ensure the necessary safety to users, workers, and the metro’s facilities face a series of issues, amid which the lack of security guards and police officers stands out.

Between 2011 and 2013, they bought and installed 37 equipment called Binomios (walk-through metal detectors and inspection equipment employing x-rays) to address the lack of surveillance staff and improve the operational abilities of the police forces who work in the metro facilities. However, 28 of this equipment lack maintenance since 2013, whereas the remaining nine since 2014, reveals the Master Plan.

The Plan itself points out that the lack of maintenance is due to budget cuts. That is why several of them present failures and breakdowns keeping them out of service, a condition that worsens over time.

Concerning the video-surveillance system, the Diagnostic on the service and facilities specifies that its design did not necessarily aim to ensure users’ security. Indeed, there are «numerous blind spots in facilities and shops, and this condition also must be addressed as a priority.»

Official data of the metro reveals that since 2009 CCTV cameras have been installed in every station of the network, garages, maintenance workshops, traction substations, and operational buildings. This system should allow recording all the videos filmed by the cameras active 24 hours per day and store the information for seven days in a digital format. Nonetheless, such a system has not received preventive and corrective maintenance since January 2015, nor resources to keep working; the Diagnostic points out.

“The most crucial problem that the CCTV cameras system faces is that most of the installed infrastructure is about to end their shelf life. It follows that many failures occur and are not easy to fix as they are out of the production line equipment.”

Doctor David Ramírez observes that the closed-circuit security cameras system in the metro has been ineffective. Indeed, «the rate of crimes keeps increasing and, on the contrary, the rate of detentions is not augmenting proportionately. It could also be that it is impossible to react timely to an issue of security nature. In either case, it is evident that the system needs a revision».

By Isaac Hernández

(Translated by: Federica Antoniani)


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