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Online Platform Alerts People in Mexico's Jalisco State to Organized Crime Violence

Helicóptero de la policia de Guadalajara iniciando con el patrullaje diario sobre la ciudad de Guadalajara. Foto tomada de la cuenta en Flickr de Alex Lomix bajo licencia Creative Commons.

Guadalajara's police helicopter beginning its daily patrol over Guadalajara City. Picture taken from Alex Lomix's Flickr account . CC BY-NC 2.0

After a Mexican air force helicopter was destroyed on May 1, 2015, supposedly at the hands of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel—now considered to be the most dangerous since Mexico's most-wanted drug lord, Servando Gómez “La Tuta,” was captured—local authorities introduced an online platform that sends out alerts about events threatening public security.

The state of Jalisco is located on the west coast of Mexico; its capital, Guadalajara, is one of the country's largest cities. As has happened in other states like Michoacán (read the story here) and Guerrero (where the students of Ayotzinapa lost their lives), law enforcement in Jalisco has been overrun by criminal organizations.

Organized crime followed up the helicopter's destruction with road blocks and the burning of vehicles, which frightened the community, according to the local government:

La autoridad estatal está cierta de que estos bloqueos generaron temor e inquietud en la población y desencadenaron que el propio gobierno local activara el Código Rojo.

Las indagatorias llevadas a cabo por la Fiscalía General del Estado (FGE) arrojan que el modus operandi para ejecutar estos bloqueos fue a través de personas -que a cambio de una cantidad de dinero ofrecida por operadores de esta organización delincuencial- procedieron a la quema de vehículos particulares y del transporte público, rociando gasolina en su interior.

El Gobierno de Jalisco ratifica que detrás de estos actos de bloqueo a las vías de comunicación estuvo la delincuencia organizada y que el objetivo de los mismos fue generar alerta en la población; pero sobre todo, distraer a las corporaciones policiacas que, al tener que atender los bloqueos, dividían elementos y recursos que facilitaban la huida de los delincuentes.

The state authority is certain that these blockades created fear and restlessness amongst the community and triggered the local government to active a code red alert.

The district attorney's investigation shows that the modus operandi of setting up the blockades was by individuals, whom after receiving payment from this criminal organization, proceeded to burn cars and public transportation vehicles by dousing their interiors with gasoline.

Jalisco's government confirms that it was organized crime behind the road blocks with the purpose of providing a warning to the community; but above all, it was to distract the police, whose forces and resources were divided as a means of having to deal with the road blocks; therefore, making it easier for the criminals to escape.

Due to the fear and uncertainty caused by the excessive violence, the government of Jalisco, lead by the district attorney, presented the Ciudadano Informado (Informed Citizen) platform with the purpose of being the official source that will inform the community on these four events: blockades, the burning of vehicles, the burning of businesses, and confrontations.

Developing the platform came at no cost to public funds; according to a press bulletin, it was donated by a software company.

The Mexican news portal SinEmbargo mentioned this about the platform:

Además, implementarán una aplicación para teléfonos inteligentes que estará lista en cuatro o cinco semanas. Finalmente crearán una base de datos para generar un registro de teléfonos donde la ciudadanía recibirá información.

La Fiscalía también emitió una serie de recomendaciones para el uso de las redes sociales, para evitar encontrarse con personas que sólo se conozcan mediante las redes sociales y pusieron teléfonos para denunciar acoso por Internet. Además recomendaron no crear cuentas falsas, porque representa una suplantación de identidad y es un delito.

In addition, they will introduce a smart phone application, which will be ready in four or five weeks. Finally, they will create a database in order to generate a phone list where citizens will receive information.

The district attorney also sent out a list of recommendations on how to use social media, such as to not meet up with people whose acquaintance was only made online, as well as providing telephone numbers in order to report online harassment. In addition, the D.A. also advised against creating fake accounts because it is seen as a form of identity theft, the latter being a crime.

On Twitter, Adam Ortiz voiced his opinion on what this tool seeks to achieve:

Guadalajara's government wagers that #InformedCitizen will combat the lack of information and spread of false security reports.

Cecilia Márquez made a sarcastic remark, skewering commentary made by authorities in the past about violence being an “isolated event”:

Buen Ciudadano GDL wrote:

Like other applications, how useful technology is depends on how it is used. In the meantime, the community (those who have Internet access) have been given an additional tool to use in an area besieged by violence.

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