Safety and informal communities

Informal and marginalized urban communities, no matter how vibrant and well established, inhabit a "no man's land" on the periphery of laws and institutions — fighting for recognition and for protection, both by and from the powers that be. Security in informal settlements is complex — joining distinct, even competing groups in a bizarre dance of violence and vulnerability, collusion and corruption, demand and denial. In these circumstances, how can residents of informal communities be safe from crime and coersion? How can the gap between the police and the poor be narrowed? What other options do slum residents have for keeping their families and property secure? Check out these reports from five featured cities — then join the conversation in the comments below.


Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community ManagerSlum security and community perceptions: Mathare insecurity

Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community Manager

On the 15th of October of this year, Hivisasa ("here and now" in Swahili), a Nairobi County online newspaper, reported on a demonstration that residents of Mathare Area 10 had staged "over what they termed as increasing insecurity in the area after two bodies were found mutilated and dumped by the roadside."

The residents wanted to speak out against a criminal gang that had been terrorizing the area, killing people and robbing them of their belongings even in broad daylight.

According to the article, "they further said that they have been reporting the matter to the local chief without success, adding that the area chief could be colluding with the gang to conduct their criminal activities... The angry residents blamed the police for laxity responding to their call." One of the residents interviewed underscored that they were demanding that a police station be established in Mathare Area 10, considering that the closest police station was in Pangani, a few miles away.

Community perceptions, gangs and the police

These grievances were reflected in a study conducted shortly thereafter by Mathare mapper Javin Ochieng, who carried out a small survey in Mathare10 in order to establish what people in the area did to keep themselves safe, and what were the most pressing changes they would like to see to increase security in their neighborhood.

The survey, which used a sample of ten men and ten women, was intended to get a better feel for whether there were existing initiatives that could be built upon, or whether a total overhaul of the system would be needed.

Security in the slums is a delicate matter — one that involves different, often competing, interest groups. According to a 2011 Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) report entitled "Sanctuary in the city? Urban displacement and vulnerability in Nairobi":

"In recent decades Nairobi has seen the emergence of several youth gangs, such as the Taliban, Kamjesh, Mungiki and Siafu. These gangs are organized along ethnic and political lines and operate in and control specific areas in the city's informal settlements and slums. Their activities appear to range from extorting money from residents in so-called 'protection rackets' to muggings, robbery and other violent crime to providing de facto rule of law and security at the request of residents."

According to Ochieng, in Mathare10, the presence of these organizations — or, in this specific case, of the Mungiki, an outlawed religious mafia-style sect — made people afraid to talk openly for fear of reprisals.

"In Mathare there is no real platform for common people to express their security concerns," Ochieng tells us. "They fear talking to the police and are frustrated that they don't have a channel to communicate with the government. Some people were afraid to talk to me because they though I might be a Mungiki spy.”

While three quarters of the respondents did not feel that the police played a role in keeping them safe, when asked whether they would like to see more police in the area, the responses were more equal with nine people saying they would and eleven saying that they wouldn't. Ambivalence and distrust towards the police was also reported in the HPG report, which noted that:

"According to Transparency International, the Kenya Police is the most corrupt institution in the country (Transparency International, 2010), a perception that was widely shared by respondents in this study. Adults and young men interviewed complained about police harassment, a problem also identified in an HPG study on urban refugees in Nairobi (Pavanello et al., 2010). Male respondents said that they were regularly arrested by the police, only to be released on payment of a bribe of approximately 1,000 KES ($12)."

Ochieng reports that people in Mathare "feel negative against the police; some of them say they are the most corrupt, they are the people who kill youth the most, they don't even care who they are killing. The community feels suspicious of the police and there is a common view that they only protect those who can afford protection."

Without the option of the police to turn to for protection, security most often takes the form of some sort of private organization. In Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, the HPG reports that some residents and shopkeepers pay around 20 KES ($0.23) a week to young Masaai men to patrol the streets at night.

Community-based policing

In Mathare, respondents to the survey also indicated that they were willing and often did pay private groups to oversee certain areas. A few people, however, felt that giving youth the power to maintain order in the streets gave them the opportunity to become thugs themselves. Others expressed a desire to see the community policing initiative that was put into place under the direction of President Mwai Kibaki restructured to better meet their needs.

In a 2005 Kenya police press release, we read that:

"Since 2003, the government embraced community based policing... Community policing is a continuous process, it is an approach to policing that recognizes the independence and shared responsibility of the police and the community in ensuring a safe and secure environment for all citizens. It aims at establishing an active and equal partnership between the police and the public through which crime and community safety issues can be jointly discussed and solutions determined and implemented... It identifies the security priorities of the community while tailoring policing to meet community needs and priorities... The main aim of community policing is to improve the relationship between the police and members of the public, to reduce crime and alleviate fear of crime in the society."

While community-based policing does in theory exist in Mathare, respondents of the survey did not feel it had lived up to its promises. According to Ochieng, the people he interviewed widely felt that community policing in Mathare had not so far been successful.

"People don't think it's fruitful because those involved are old, rich, or connected to the provincial administration. People feel that they have been left out of the project, which they feel is under-resourced and lacks a proper organizational structure... Furthermore, there is a perception in the neighborhood that the community police are simply a body put there to spy on the youth so that they can report them to the government and have them killed off."

Despite their suspicions, those surveyed widely felt that community policing did have the potential if it underwent a thorough restructuring that focused specifically on how to involve all parts of the community — including the youth for whom, if used correctly, this could be a real employment opportunity and a chance for them to contribute to their surrounding environment in a beneficial way.

The final question on the survey focussed on what residents felt their neighborhood needed in order to increase security. The responses were surprisingly uniform, with the majority of people citing a definite need for CCTV in the area, which they felt would serve as a deterrent to crime. Beyond that, people were keen to see more street lighting, to have either a police or a community-reporting center that was accessible to everyone, and to create more employment opportunities for the idle youth who were identified as the major perpetrators of crimes.


  • Can crime-prone idle youth be "transformed" into defenders of the community? How?
  • How can the gap between the community and the police be bridged?
  • Who should be responsible for restructuring the community-policing initiative, and how should it be run?
  • What other options do residents of informal settlements have to protect themselves from petty crime and violence?

Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community ManagerLiving on Mumbai's streets

Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community Manager

When the great Eastern sun sets over Mumbai, the city's streets — like nearly all spaces in the cramped peninsula city — are transformed. Shop lights from street vendors, vegetable sellers and chai stands dot the streetscape. Temple worshippers ring bells around garland-strung gods, and markets await evening shoppers reticent to go out in the heat of the day. Mumbai's streets at night are exciting, alive and full of activity — and, by most accounts, safe.

Yet this is just one reality in the city. Nearly 200,000 Mumbaikers await the cover of night to return to their modest plots of sidewalk to set up for a few hours of sleep. Mumbai's homeless are families — women, children, grandmothers — as well as a large number of single men who come to the city from all over the country. Their goal is shared by so many migrants to the country's economic capital: to gain a little slice of the pie unavailable in their rural homesteads. They are here to work, and work hard they do — laboring from early hours in the morning to late into the night. "The homeless people are the backbone of the city's economy," says Abhishek Bharadwaj, founder of Alternative Realities, an NGO advocating on behalf of Mumbai's shelterless. "The economy invites them to come, but the city doesn’t want to give them facilities."

The situation

Bharadwaj has been working with Mumbai's homeless since 2003. Still a post-graduate student then, he was out enjoying the city's nightlife one night when he saw more than 1,500 people sleeping under the open sky on the roadside. "They were there in front of me, but to most of the city they are invisible," says Bharadwaj, explaining that during the day, contrary to the perception of many, Mumbai's homeless are off working throughout the city. In an extensive survey he did the following year, Bharadwaj found that more than 35 percent of the homeless work as casual laborers: constructing, catering, cleaning, ironing, polishing and hammering. Another 20 percent were self-employed, weaving baskets or stringing garland, for example. One of the largest groups of homeless is what Bharadwaj refers to as the "green soldiers" — the city's ragpickers who collect the unwanted waste of the city and recycle it for minor returns. Sixty-five percent of the homeless population earns less than INR2,000 (~US$36) per month, and 93 percent earns less than INR3,000 (US$54) per month, according to Bharadwaj's 2004 survey.

While the city's homeless are largely employed, their meager wages and lack of night shelters offer few options but the streets. Pavement dwellers are left to deal with the hardships that come with living on Mumbai's roadsides. Risks to their safety start with their proximity to speeding traffic. Alternative Realities partnered with NDTV recently to create a documentary on the dangers posed, showing images of traffic whizzing just inches from sleeping bodies. Bharadwaj also says that not having a home leaves street dwellers vulnerable to crime. Last week, a taxi driver attempted to abduct an eight-year-old girl who was living with her family on the pavement. Though his attempt was thwarted by onlookers, the enraged driver rammed into other neighbors, leaving one in critical condition. The survivor had been living on the streets since he came to Mumbai in 1984.

While many of the street dwellers have been living in their same spots for decades, they continue to face daily harassment from authorities ready to demolish their small existences. Police force them to pay bribes — sometimes up to INR600 (~US11) per week in more upmarket localities — or risk being thrown out of the area. Even worse is the prospect of being locked up in the city's beggars' homes, where they are treated as criminals and denied any rights. The situation sheds light on the aggressive stance the state has taken with this population.

A multi-faceted approach

In addition to daily safety concerns, Mumbai's homeless lack access to education, skills training, healthcare, and, of course, shelter. Bharadwaj says that the needs of the homeless are so complex and intertwined that solutions must likewise be "comprehensive and multi-sectoral by including coalition building, awareness-raising, and creative advocacy campaigns." He set up Alternative Realities in 2004 to advocate on behalf of the homeless and to create solutions collaboratively with NGOs, municipal authorities, law enforcement, hospitals, churches, corporations and academic institutions.

Alternative Realities has implemented a diverse set of programming that educates homeless on their rights, builds leadership and representation among their population and gives opportunities for positively impacting their situation:

  • Homeless Leaders and Federations: The organization has trained 20 homeless leaders from different areas of the city and has formed a federation at the city level. These leaders are given the skills to successfully raise their concerns on issues such as eliminating municipal and police harassment, gaining identification of citizenship, and accessing free and quality health care.
  • Street Libraries: Alternative Realities has set up five homeless libraries nicknamed "HoLi," after India’s festive celebration of lights called "Holi." Books are donated from people and organizations all over the city, and Bharadwaj encourages donors to drop off the books themselves in order to get to know the pavement dwellers and breakdown negative stigmas attached to homeless in the city.
    The libraries reach 1,200 homeless children and youth with the goal of building their self-esteem, generating their interest in reading and creating a community space to stimulate social interactions. They are owned and run by the homeless themselves, and the timing is set to suit their needs and schedules.
  • Friday Nights Out: Alternative Realities has set up opportunities for Mumbaikers to meet the pavement dwellers and hear their stories firsthand. Friday Nights out are night-time walks in areas of the city where homeless sleep. The Alternative Reality guides give a tour of the area and then each participant is required to speak with a homeless person for five minutes. The group then reconvenes to discuss what they've heard and learned.
    "We've had a great outcome from this program, and we've even organized nights out with a few municipal authorities," says Bharadwaj. "The homeless citizens felt free to share their experiences with the officials. Authorities were able to get a comprehensive understanding of the issues."
  • Homeless Newspaper: Giving voice to the homeless has been another priority of Alternative Realities. The organization has helped set up a newsletter run by homeless leaders called "Footpathi Awaaz" ("Voice of the Pavement").

While empowering the homeless is a first-step in creating awareness of this invisible issue in the city, Bharadwaj stresses the need for innovative solutions to putting real roofs over the street sleepers' heads at night. He has been lobbying the Supreme Court to implement shelters that are non-existent in the city now. The ongoing struggle is rooted in difficulty getting the state government to even acknowledge homeless exist in the city. Though the "invisible" are increasingly becoming more acknowledged, the municipality has cited lack of interest by NGOs as an obstacle to creating shelters. A microHome Solutions (mHS) article on earlier this year presented ideas for modular night shelters.

Organizations like Alternative Realities are among a handful dedicated to working with India's large and growing homeless population. However, the challenges and needs are complex, and NGOs will need the backing of the state to make real progress on gaining secure shelter and improving livelihood prospects, health and education. Bharadwaj is hopeful that there is a growing realization of the woeful state of homeless in the city that will prompt more action. The next move will need to be a progressive policy that reaches across one-dimensional responses, creating more security, safety and opportunity. Street dwellers have proven resiliency and their ability to work hard. Now it's the state's turn to fuel the working poor's drive to improve their circumstances and make Mumbai a more equitable city for all.

Julisa Tambunan, Jakarta Community ManagerMengembalikan keamanan lingkungan ke tangan warga

Julisa Tambunan, Jakarta Community Manager

Big cities with informal settlements are susceptible to high crime rates. In Jakarta, where half of the inhabitants are crammed into slums, security is a major problem. Threats range from street crimes to fires. The new governor's administration is now trying to reactivate the traditional method of Siskamling (shortened from Sistem Keamanan Lingkungan, or Neighborhood Security System), which was once popular among citizens. Siskamling is a community-based security system where citizens protect their own neighborhoods by doing night watches and creating security plans.

Kota besar identik dengan tingginya angka kriminalitas. Tempat seperti Jakarta, di mana setengah warganya berdesakan di pemukiman kumuh, yang membuat setiap orang menjadi anonim adalah tempat subur bagi menjamurnya masalah keamanan. Tidak ada yang aman. Kebanyakan warga pun tak lagi percaya pada satuan kepolisian. Warga Jakarta di masa lalu pernah terkenal dengan tradisi gotong-royongnya. Mungkinkah mengembalikan keamanan lingkungan ke tangan warga seperti sedia kala ketika kolektivitas warga masih kental?

Perkelahian sampai kebakaran

Di setiap kunjungan saya ke pemukiman kumuh, miskin dan padat yang terbesar saya di Jakarta Utara, kampung Penjaringan, saya selalu menyempatkan diri untuk berbincang-bincang dengan penduduk setempat. "Kalau mau dibilang aman, ya tidak juga, Mbak. Malam-malam rawan di sini, banyak orang mabuk, itu anak-anak muda yang nggak kerja," ungkap salah seorang warga yang pernah saya temui di sana.

Kekerasan dan kejahatan yang terjadi di pemukiman informal seperti di Penjaringan memang sering dihubungkan dengan tingkat pengangguran yang tinggi. Seperti di kota-kota besar lainnya, kurangnya lahan pekerjaan membuat banyak orang berusia produktif menghabiskan waktu di jalan sehingga mudah terbawa ke perilaku destruktif seperti mengkonsumsi minuman keras dan terlibat dalam perkelahian dan bentuk kekerasan lainnya. Perkelahian dan kekerasan ini bisa sekedar perang antar kelompok anak jalanan, sampai ke isu SARA.

Namun, kriminalitas di pemukiman informal tak terbatas pada perkelahian saja. Pencurian kecil sampai perampokan besar pun banyak terjadi. "Maling motor banyak di sini, ya malingnya bukan penduduk sini tapi dari luar," ungkap warga lainnya. Tak hanya itu, kekerasan pada perempuan seperti penodongan sampai perkosaan pun tak jarang ditemui, karena karakter pemukiman yang cenderung gelap dan penuh gang sempit.

Namun salah satu ancaman keamanan yang semakin sering membuat warga di kampung-kampung resah adalah kebakaran. Di Jakarta, rata-rata terjadi 600 kebakaran setahun, dari yang skala kecil sampai besar. Kecamatan Tambora di Jakarta Barat, yang berdasarkan catatan statistsik resmi pemerintah merupakan kampung terpadat se-Indonesia menjadi salah satu pelanggan tetap bencana kebakaran. Karakter pemukiman yang informal dengan penataan bangunan yang berantakan dan kabel listrik yang tak teratur membuat kebakaran sulit dihindari. Si jago merah menjalar dengan cepat menghabisi rumah papan yang mendominasi pemukiman. Berabenya, kebakaran ini seringkali buatan manusia, sengaja ataupun tidak sengaja, karena masalah kompor gas meledak ataupun yang berbau politik seperti penggusuran oleh oknum tertentu.

Belakangan, baik pemerintah kota maupun warga kampung mulai mencari jalan keluar informal untuk mengatasi masalah keamanan lingkungan: menghidupkan kembali pos kamling yang sudah lama tak aktif.

Reaktivasi Siskamling

Sebetulnya tak selalu benar juga jika dibilang pemukiman padat dan kumuh membuat penduduknya menjadi anonim. Justru sebaliknya. Di sana kebanyakan orang saling mengenal satu sama lain. Kolektivitas ini adalah kekuatan. Dengan tidak adanya ruang untuk berkegiatan di dalam rumah, karena sempitnya tempat tinggal, orang banyak duduk-duduk dan bercengkerama di luar rumah. Lingkungan dekat pos RT atau lapangan olahraga setempat biasanya hampir selalu ramai di malam hari.

Sistem Keamanan Lingkungan atau yang lebih dikenal sebagai Siskamling adalah sistem keamanan yang mengandalkan kolektivitas warga untuk menjaga lingkungannya. Sistem ini sudah turun-temurun dilakukan oleh warga Jakarta sejak dahulu kala, ketika karakter masyarakat kota masih lebih kolektif. Namun kepopulerannya semakin menurun saat ini. Siskamling tak terlalu efektif di lingkungan kelas menengah ke atas yang lebih individualis, kecuali ketika Jakarta didera kerusuhan besar pada bulan Mei tahun 1998. Saat itu, hampir seluruh warganya turun untuk berjaga malam atau "meronda" secara bergantian di lingkungannya masing-masing. Kini bahkan di pemukiman miskin pun, siskamling dapat dikatakan mati suri. Warga sekarang lebih suka membayar satpam untuk berkeliling mengawasi lingkungan di malam hari. Tapi, apakah artinya satu orang satpam jika dibandingkan seluruh warga yang bekerja sama?

Karena alasan inilah, gubernur baru Jakarta, Jokowi, yang baru dilantik bulan lalu pun mulai menghibau warga Jakarta untuk menghidupkan kembali sistem ini. "Masalah kemanan bukan tanggung jawab aparat kepolisian saja, melainkan juga tanggung jawab masyarakat di kampung-kampung. Selama ini pengamanan secara mandiri oleh masyarakat terbukti efektif untuk mencegah hal-hal yang tidak diinginkan," tegasnya di salah satu bincang-bincang yang ia lakukan dengan pers. Tim sukses Jokowi memang menjadikan siskamling dan maskotnya, kentongan, sebagai salah satu alat kampanye ketika masa Pilkada.

Di masa lalu, kentongan, alat tradisional dari kayu yang digantungkan di pos Kamling dan siap dibunyikan jika ada bahaya, sangat efektif dalam membuat warga waspada. Kini, sistem itu hendak dihidupkan kembali. "Meski jaman sudah modern, kentongan ini efektif. Warga bisa saling mengingatkan seperti kelas menengah menggunakan media sosial. Tapi ini kan pemukiman kumuh, jadi alarm yang paling tepat ya kentongan, karena sudah dipahami secara luas sebagai tanda peringatan saat dibunyikan," ungkap Mustar Bona Ventura, anggota tim sukses Jokowi kala itu.

Kunci keberhasilan

Meski biayanya murah dan sifatnya yang berbasis komunitas sangat menjanjikan dalam hal berkelanjutan, tak mudah untuk menghidupkan kembali Siskamling. Terutama di kota yang semakin padat dengan sikap individualitis yang makin merajalela. Kata gotong-royong dan kerja bakti semakin jarang terlihat pengejewantahannya di lapangan.

Sejumlah hasil penelitian di lapangan pun menelurkan beberapa rekomendasi untuk mengaktifkan kembali sistem kemanan lingkungan atau Siskamling yang berkelanjutan. Yang pertama, tujuannya harus jelas dan disepakati oleh warga. Tujuan ini seharusnya tak hanya melulu untuk mengurangi tingkat kriminalitas di lingkungan, namun juga mempererat tali silaturahmi antar warga, memperbaiki komunikasi antar warga, dan membangun disiplin masyarakat. Penting sekali untuk melibatkan warga muda, seperti anggota Karang Taruna. Pemberian tanggung jawab kepada anak-anak muda terbukti efektif mengurangi risiko mereka tertarik pada perilaku destruktif seperti berkelahi.

Ada baiknya partisipasi warga dalam Siskamling dilindungi langsung oleh pemerintah lokal di tingkat RT dan RW, sehingga semua harus bertanggung jawab terhadap keamanan lingkungannya. Instruksi dan dukungan dari pemimpin formal maupun informal sangat penting dalam membuat kegiatannya berkelanjutan. Peraturan yang dibuat secara partisipatif juga mampu meningkatkan rasa kepemilikan warga akan sistem ini, sehingga dapat berjalan terus dan tidak mati di tengah-tengah.

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community ManagerCombate a la delincuencia en barrios urbanos: estrategias de mitigación del delito en Iztapalapa

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community Manager

Evidence shows that informal settlements tend to have higher criminality compared to more developed areas. Iztapalapa demonstrates this relationship, given that it has Mexico City's highest levels of both poverty and crime. In response, the local government has developed, on the one hand, a preventive strategy to address the causes of the problem; and, on the other hand, mitigation strategies to deal with its immediate consequences. Studies have shown that a good preventive policy is to change children's mindsets by exchanging toy weapons for creative and healthy toys; for adults, real weapons can be exchanged for money. However, preventive policies must include key stakeholders in order to really change mindsets and thereby change crime rates as well.

La Delegación Iztapalapa se encuentra dentro de las primeras tres demarcaciones del DF con mayores índices de delincuencia, en el primer lugar se encuentra Delegación Cuauhtémoc, seguida por la Delegación Iztapalapa y en tercer lugar la Gustavo A. Madero. Según Nydia Egremy, en su reportaje "Barrios marginales, víctimas de la delincuencia y del Estado", las zonas urbanas pobres son las que presentan las tasas más altas de homicidio, violencia y robos; por lo que la marginalidad y alta criminalidad convierten en excluidos urbanos a los habitantes asentados en dichas zonas. El vivir bajo un contexto de inseguridad la población se encuentra atrapada en un círculo vicioso en donde la pobreza del entorno y la incidencia delictiva conllevan una relación estrecha.

Ante el contexto delictivo, la implementación de estrategias para el combate y prevención del delito son esenciales para proveer un bienestar a la población residente en los zonas urbanas marginadas.

Contexto delictivo en Iztapalapa

La Delegación Iztapalapa se encuentra al oriente de la Ciudad de México, por su gran extensión colinda al norte con la Delegación Iztacalco y el municipio de Netzahualcóyotl (Edo. de México), al sur con las Delegaciones Tláhuac y Xochimilco, los municipios de los Reyes la Paz e Iztapaluca (Edo. De México) colindan por el este. En este sentido, Iztapalapa está rodeada por municipios y delegaciones con altos niveles de marginación, puesto que son las áreas urbanas de la ZMVM con menor índice de desarrollo social. De acuerdo a Gil y Rosas en el estudio Seguridad Pública en Iztapalapa: Un acercamiento institucional, Iztapalapa es la delegación que presenta los mayores rezagos sociales y la marginación más profunda en comparación con el resto dl territorio del DF.

El componente social conformado por la población total, la densidad de población, el número total de viviendas, la población económicamente activa, el grado de escolaridad y de ingreso son determinantes en las causas que originan la violencia y la delincuencia. Así mismo, el componente físico que incluye la infraestructura, espacios públicos como áreas verdes y deportivas, vialidades y transporte público también determina la dinámica de la delegación, puesto que influye en las oportunidades de las personas. En este sentido, Iztapalapa es la delegación con mayor población en el DF, con 1,815,786 habitantes, alberga una expansión demográfica debido a la migración de la población proveniente de diversas entidades y de las mismas delegaciones centrales del DF, las cuales se asientan de manera irregular en zonas de suelo de conservación bajo las faldas de la sierra inmersa en la delegación. Por su parte en materia de acceso a servicios públicos, de acuerdo al INEGI, 695,478 personas en el 2010 no tenían derechohabiencia a servicios de salud. Según el Conteo de Población y Vivienda 2005, la población económicamente activa (PEA) de Iztapalapa correspondía al 53 por ciento de la población, de la cual el 98.4 por ciento se encontraba empleada, sin embargo, los incentivos laborales son escasos, ya que la mitad de la PEA vive al día con menos de dos salarios mínimos, lo equivalente a 5 dólares; es decir, viven bajo la línea de pobreza de ingreso de acuerdo a lo establecido por el Consejo Nacional de Evaluación de la Política de Desarrollo Social (CONEVAL).

En el 2009, Iztapalapa concentró el 15 por ciento de los delitos en el DF, siendo que su población representa el 21 por ciento de la población total de la capital. De acuerdo al Programa Delegacional de Desarrollo de la delegación de Iztapalapa 2009-2012, en lo referente a la seguridad pública los vecinos demandan en primer lugar mayor presencia policiaca en barrios y colonias y amplios programas sociales dirigido a los jóvenes.

Estrategias de mitigación del delito en Iztapalapa

Derivado de la inseguridad que permea las zonas vulnerables de Iztapalapa, la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública del Gobierno del Distrito Federal está implementando estrategias desde dos frentes, el primero es la prevención del delito como un eje fundamental para proteger a los ciudadanos y el segundo por medio de acciones operativas que tienen como fin combatir la delincuencia.

Desde el ámbito de la prevención, la SSP del DF implementa acciones priorizando como población objetivo a los jóvenes y niños. Uno de los programas que implementa es la Campaña Intercambio de Juguete Bélico, a fin de generar en los niños una conciencia de rechazo hacia la violencia, mediante el intercambio de juguetes bélicos por didácticos, para prevenir accidentes y delitos en los ámbitos familiar y escolar. El programa responde a la gran cantidad de programas en medios de comunicación con alto contenido de violencia, así como juegos de video con gran impacto visual y psicológico y los contextos de las comunidades en las que viven.

La campaña se dirige a niños de 1°, 2°, y 3er grado de educación primaria, el cual consiste en dos fases, primero la adquisición de juguetes didácticos a través de la donación de la Asociación Mexicana de la Industria del Juguete, seguido por la convocatoria a niños de escuelas públicas primarias en el D.F. para participar en el concurso de dibujos y lemas alusivos al Rechazo a la Violencia y Prevención del Delito. En la fase 2, se realiza el canje de los juguetes bélicos por los didácticos. La campaña se realiza una vez al año en todas las demarcaciones del DF.

Siguiendo el mismo argumento, autoridades de la Delegación Iztapalapa, la SSP-DF y la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA), implementan la campaña Vida Sin Armas, Canje por Dinero, que convoca a las personas poseedoras de armas a deshacerse de ellas, a fin de evitar tragedias y accidentes en el hogar, prevención del delito y de un contexto de violencia en las comunidades. El canje de las armas se lleva a cabo en un módulo instalado en un lugar público, en el que los portadores de las armas las podrán entregar a cambio de dinero en efectivo, despensas o computadoras, con la garantía plena de salvaguardar su anonimato. Para el 2011, en una primera etapa se ejercieron un millón 300 mil pesos de los seis millones presupuestados para el programa en la demarcación de Iztapalapa, en este ejercicio se recibieron 459 armas y se entregaron 119 despensas.

Por parte del combate al crimen, la Unidad de Seguridad Escolar (USE) de la SSP-DF, es un cuerpo de policía especializada, que según dicha instancia, los elementos del Grupo Juvenil Escudo están capacitados para interactuar con jóvenes estudiantes a quienes brinda seguridad con vigilancia en los alrededores de los planteles educativos y orientación para la prevención del delito, adicciones y conductas antisociales. Este grupo es egresado del Instituto Técnico de Formación Policial; opera el "Programa Escuela Segura y Libre de Drogas" en los planteles de secundaria, el cual comprende el establecimiento de entornos escolares seguros a través de la presencia policial. Así mismo, participan en el operativo Mochila Segura, en el cual en el cual profesores y padres de familia verifican junto con los policías, que los alumnos no introduzcan armas en sus mochilas al entorno escolar, al igual que objetos prohibidos. Los operativos se realizan sin previo aviso de manera que sea efectivo, a través de los operativos se han confiscado petardos, bomba molotov, navajas y bebidas alcohólicas.

Mochila Segura es una de las aristas del programa Sendero Seguro de la SSP-DF, que se implementa en los planteles educativos con presencia de conflicto social, robos, y asaltos en sus inmediaciones. Para su implementación durante el 2012, el programa abarcará 2 mil escuelas de preescolar, primaria, secundaria y preparatoria en siete delegaciones del DF; a través de 900 policías de la USE se forman barreras de vigilancia y vialidad en el exterior de los planteles a la hora de tránsito escolar.

Ante el cambio actual de administraciones locales, los 16 jefes delegacionales recientes afirmaron enfocar sus acciones de gobierno para implementar estrategias de prevención y de combate a la inseguridad, la cual es una de las peticiones más frecuentes de los habitantes.

Por parte de la sociedad civil, la organización México Unido Contra la Delincuencia A.C. (MUCD) implementa acciones de prevención del delito en la demarcación. Esta organización nació por medio del llamado de líderes sociales con el fin de buscar la sinergia de esfuerzos para que la población dejara de permanecer pasiva ante la creciente inseguridad en el país. Su misión es unir a la sociedad y ser un vínculo de ésta con las autoridades para sumar esfuerzos en favor de la seguridad, la legalidad y la justicia. Entre sus objetivos se encuentra: exigir la acción de las autoridades en materia de seguridad, justicia y colaborar con éstas; promover la creación y aplicación de programas de prevención del delito, seguridad pública y procuración de justicia y brindar orientación a víctimas del delito jurídica y psicológicamente.

Entre sus programas se encuentra la Cultura de la Legalidad que promueve la formación ciudadana con relación a la legalidad, a través del trabajo con sociedad civil y autoridades, facilitando en el proceso, la formación de líderes sociales que desde sus ámbitos de influencia pueden impulsarla. Bajo este programa, MUCD ha impartido la conferencia "Medidas Generales de Prevención del Delito", a través del empoderamiento ciudadano se promueve la sensibilización en materia de autocuidado, autoprotección y prevención sobre posibles delitos en su persona y en su comunidad. Las conferencias se llevan a cabo en el Módulo de Participación Ciudadana de una de las colonias de la Delegación.


La seguridad pública como un derecho fundamental de las personas, y como un factor fundamental para el bienestar de las personas en condiciones de pobreza es un llamado a la colaboración entre distintos actores, de manera que la planeación de estrategias de seguridad pública contemplen las necesidades de la población y que enfatice la prevención de la violencia de manera oportuna. La sinergia de actores y esfuerzos es fundamental para la superación de la inseguridad, si bien el Estado tiene la obligación de proveer seguridad pública como un derecho humano, Gil y Rosas afirman que el gobierno no puede enfrentar solo dicha tarea, sino que tiene que incorporar la participación de la sociedad, a través de sus diferentes manifestaciones, por medio de acciones democráticas, racionales y eficientes para que realmente exista un avance significativo en garantizar la seguridad pública.

Así mismo, dentro de las estrategias de prevención y combate al delito es indispensable que los actores involucrados asuman el delito y la violencia como un fenómeno multidimensional, de manera que se ataquen las diversas causas como la pobreza, las carencias sociales de la población (vivienda, seguridad social, educación, salud) la desigualdad de oportunidades y el contexto de los incentivos laborales. Lo anterior para que la solución a este problema se brinde de manera integral.

Ante la creciente crisis delictiva que se vive en México, y teniendo en cuenta que la política pública implica asignación de recursos limitados, planeación estratégica, la capacitación de elementos de la policía y acciones operativas diversas ¿a qué se debería de dar prioridad, a las políticas preventivas o de combate?

The politics of crack in Rio de Janeiro

Graham Denyer Willis, Contributor on Violence, Security and Pacification

Santo Amaro may be a small favela, but it tells a powerful story about Rio de Janeiro. This community of about 5,000 people sits on a sharp ridge tucked behind a façade of commercial buildings, just down the street from the former presidential palace in the city's Catete neighborhood. Obscured from many angles, the influence of Santo Amaro has often been felt even if the community itself isn't well seen. One way that Santo Amaro has been felt but not seen concerns smokable freebase cocaine, aka crack.

The politics of crack are divisive. In Rio, the explosion of this cheap, lucrative, and readily available cocaine-derived drug reveals many urban cleavages — moral and immoral, rich and poor, external image and local reality, federal and local intervention, to name a few. Responses to the influence of crack, the way it is trafficked, the social perceptions about its use, and the waves of urban "disorder" that follow it, are evocative of a great many larger urban dynamics.

For years, Santo Amaro was controlled by the Comando Vermelho (CV), an armed drug trafficking group with roots in the prison system. Like other drug trafficking groups in Rio, the CV is heavily armed and favela-based. It uses military weaponry such as assault rifles and fights with rival groups over communities that serve as trafficking safe-havens and, increasingly, drug consumption markets. But unlike its rivals, the CV has no qualms about the consequences of crack use. While other groups have embargoed its sale in their own communities, purportedly because of the precipitous toll it takes on human lives and welfare, the CV has pressed on. While others took the moral high road, the CV did not.

In Santo Amaro the consequences of crack use were obvious. Within the community, a bustling and neo-apocalyptic 'crackland' of users and dealers developed. In it were addicted children, women reduced to sex work, and unhindered disease.

Down below on the cobblestone streets of this historic part of the city, users laid out all manner of goods — "discovered" things, such as shoes, lampshades, and old electronics — to sell. Crack users mingled and slept among these rows, in between trips up the stairway to Santo Amaro, just past the local police station.

For local residents and business owners, the poverty and imagery of Santo Amaro's crack spilling down the hillside were tearing apart the neighborhood. Residents of Santo Amaro bemoaned the fate of their community. While other favelas in the city's Southern Zone were pacified, Santo Amaro was passed over. It was clear that people were avoiding this part of town, especially now that Santo Amaro was the only favela in the southern part of the city that had not benefitted from the Pacifying Police Unit project.

On an afternoon in May, about two weeks before Rio+20, troops from the Federal Ministry of Justice raided and occupied the community, which is located across the avenue from the ornate Rio+20 grounds. In one day, around 200 crack users were placed in treatment centers. Among them, according to one Santo Amaro resident, were up to thirty girls between the ages of 11 and 13. Almost overnight the streets were clean, patrolled by Federal pickup trucks, and in the middle of the plaza stood a freshly painted shipping container office emblazoned with the logo and slogan of the Federal Government's new anti-crack initiative: "Crack. You can beat it." Not only was there no violence to emerge from Santo Amaro during Rio+20, anyone who passed by would have been impressed by the progressive anti-drug partnership between Federal, State, and City governments.

This intervention deserves closer examination. As a city and state, Rio de Janeiro has warmed to Federal interventions in public security in recent years — and this is a big one. The Federal Government has committed to spending US$120 million on anti-crack programs in the city and a great deal more (US$2 billion) throughout the country by 2014. But even as crack problems go, Santo Amaro was not nearly the most challenging of Rio de Janeiro's 'cracklands'. Other, much more dangerous areas dot the much poorer CV-controlled areas in the Lowlands and on the north side of the city. There, users congregate on active train lines, mingle under bridges, and gather in other hazardous spaces. These are areas that are far, both geographically and in the government's view, from the external attention that too often drives Rio's politics.

Make no mistake: crack is a curse for the human body. But it is more than that: it's a window on inequality and urban division. In the way people and politics respond — or not — crack can tell us a lot about who can be forgotten, who deserves help, who is powerful, and who — more often than not — loses.

Graham Denyer Willis is a Ph.D. Candidate in Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. He has studied police in Brazil ethnographically since 2009, and is currently completing his dissertation research on homicide police and the investigation of police killings in Sao Paulo. His research has been funded by the Open Society Foundation / Social Science Research Council, the Social Science Research Council of Canada, Foreign Affairs Canada, the Center for International Studies at MIT, and the Carroll L. Wilson Fellowship, among others.


For reasons that are not entirely clear to me I often compare the Nairobi and Mumbai reports due to an affinity I feel these two cities have (this affinity is purely instinctual and not based on any scientific fact).

In this case however, Carlin's article shows us that the differences are bigger than I would have liked to imagine.

In Nairobi you will be hard pressed to see someone sleeping on the streets in residential areas or the Central Business District. It is only the poorest of the poor who sometimes drop through sheer exhaustion or a substance-induced stupor into a corner and sleep for a while - in all probability these street walkers are regularly moved on by the police.
The slums however present an entirely different picture. For example in Mathare slum, in the pre-dawn hours, every free space of land is covered in sleeping bodies. While the small shacks that make up the settlements host anything from 6 residents upwards (depends if it is a family shack or one that people pay nightly to stay in) the outside areas of the slums are tightly-packed with those who cannot even afford a tin-roof over their heads. This however does not imply they sleep for free ... Even a little corner of packed mud in an outside space in Mathare will be under someone's tutelage who expects to be paid.

The security situation also seems to be quite opposite in both cities. While Mumbai appears to have managed to contain any serious crime-wave from effecting city residents, security is always first and foremost on the minds of Nairobi residents (it's not called Nairobbery for nothing) who will lock their doors, close their bags, check their backs and worry about getting mugged or attacked (or involved in an explosion) pretty regularly throughout any given day.

The tactics that Nairobi slum residents employ in order to keep themselves safe, are widely reflected throughout the higher-income residential neighbourhoods of the city (except with guards who have armed-response units on call).

Nairobi is a city on lock-down anywhere you turn. Only with a raise in employment levels especially with regards to the youth will it be possible to begin to curb the crime and violence that are so common here.

That said the one glaring similarity between the two cities is the mention of police taking bribes. It would seem that both these countries have an endemic problem of police corruption. In Kenya the trend recently appears to have taken off quite brutally. The police are increasingly simply seen as another bandit group out to hijack people and take whatever money they have (using flimsy if not inexistent excuses).

Katy Fentress
URB.IM - Nairobi Community Manager

Katy, actually, Mumbai prides itself on being a safe city, and, for the most part, it is. (Mumbaikers especially like to tout their record of safety for women over rival megapolis, Delhi). The insecurity that homeless deal with is mainly with authority and the potential threat of being thrown out of their little square of the city. As you said, paying bribes are a regular part of the lives of the poor--the unfortunate reality of living in informal systems.

What's worrisome to me is that similar to the situation you mentioned in Nairobi, the youth of Mumbai, and all of urban India, will need to have employment, and not just work--meaningful employment that is fulfilling on some level. India is in a period of "demographic dividend" with its huge youth population. The country has the potential to unleash the power of so many energetic youth, but education and access to quality education needs to be ensured for all. In addition, skills training programs need to set youth on the path to work. Without this, Mumbai's disgruntled youth will turn more and more to crime. In fact, there are have been recent spates of violent incidences against elderly and women in the city, indicating that this trend could be starting already. There’s hope of curbing a future that resembles the difficult security situation in Nairobi, but action needs to be taken quickly.

Interesting article! Seems to be well researched and makes some points very clear.

While on the subject of of security in Kenyan slums, I recently read an interesting article on UPNairobi on a self-defence class for elderly women that is being run in Korogocho slum.
Although I have been unable to find the link to the article online, I did find out that someone has done a documentary on the group called: Kung Fu Grandmas!

Here is a link to the trailer (when I get my hands on the complete version I will make sure to notify you here):

Katy Fentress
URB.IM - Nairobi Community Manager

I'm intrigued by your point in the summary that one of the preventive measures that have been taken was changing children's mindsets by exchanging toy weapons for creative and healthy toys. Could you tell a bit more about how this has been done, e.g through campaign? Are there any success stories? I can't help but thinking there's a lot of gender biases going on in choosing toys for children --- and so that is probably the first thing that must be adressed.

Julisa, thanks for your comment, it is very interesting your point. The programme has been implemented by the local government of the DF through a campaign in public schools, they invite children among 6 and 19 years old to participate in a drawing contest alluding to the prevention of violence and crime. In a second stage of the project, the children that participated in the contest have access to the exchange of toy weapons for creative ones. This toys are donated by the Mexican Association of Toy Industries which pretend to impact positively in the development of children, so there are educational toys that try to change children´s mindsets by playing with this type of toys instead of watching TV programs or videogames with high content related to violence. As you mentioned it is important to avoid gender biases in the exchange of toys, however as they are learning toys they must not have gender differences.

Maria Fernanda, very interesting article about how Mexico City is working to reduce violence in low income neighborhoods. I consider that this prevention-focused strategy is an interesting approach. What I like the most is the innovative work with vulnerable children and adolescents through programs that encourage replacing guns for alternative toys and through promoting safe and inclusive school environments.

In the case of Rio de Janeiro, similar efforts are taking place with the help of several NGOs and community groups, such like Rede Jovem and Afro Reggae (both groups worth checking out, as they have very interesting experiences and are even “exporting” some of their lessons to several parts of the world). These organizations are showing children and adolescents in low income and violent neighborhoods alternative lifestyles to violence through art, culture, technological innovation and sports.

Thanks for sharing the Mexico City experience and lets keep the debate on, so we can learn more about different approaches and initiatives about local level violence prevention.

Graham, definetely the government needs to spend money in order to tackle adictions, however it is important to go beyond the money spending in programmes and implement preventive actions as well, moreover does this programme develops capacities in people so they can choose a healthy style life? I mean crack adicts could relapse on the adictions if they do not have alternatives. As you mentioned, this programme must be an integral strategy which must promote opportunities for people.

Maria Fernanda, you are absolutely right about the need of more preventive initiatives in Rio, specifically interventions targeted to prevent drug consumption among vulnerable youth. As Graham discusses the drug addiction problem in some favelas is closely related to poverty, and this problematic is very difficult to tackle. There needs to be more coordinated activities from the government and civil society in the areas of social assistance, health and education to provide this youth with alternative healthy lifestyles not related to drug consumption or trafficking.

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