Saturday, August 05, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: Need help? Just whistle.

Merchants and residents of downtown Oaxaca, fed up with skyrocketing crime rates due to no police protection, have taken the law into their own hands, sort of. They have banded together to create a citizens group that will respond to whistles.

The weapon of choice.
Tired of being the targets for muggers taking advantage of the lack of police presence due to the striking teachers' encampment downtown, residents of the area have armed themselves with whistles to protect one another.
One merchant said,
"We are not trying to supplant the authority of the police to provide protection, but we want to demonstrate to the criminals and to the protesters that, as a civil society, we can also organize ourselves."
The merchants told of a woman whose necklace was snatched and whose sons caught the mugger. The two sons had to drag the guy all the way to the prosecutor's office because the police refused to respond.

One merchant related that thieves are prying open car doors in broad daylight and that Friday, in the City Market, three bank machines were carted off. Three ATM's hauled away in one day? I gotta get down there with my truck.

A public security official said that the incident rate of thefts of cell phones, jewelry and purse snatching had risen because the criminals were taking advantage of the "conditions under which we must live in Oaxaca. For this reason, we must take care of our customers and for this we will use the whistles." The procedure is that, when a merchant blows a whistle, the other merchants in the area come running to help.

Some stores and shops have hung banners that read:
Estimado cliente debido a que las autoridades municipales retiraron la vigilancia del centro de la ciudad, en caso de que seas ví­ctima de algún delincuente avísanos en este comercio para brindarte ayuda, y darle su merecido al delincuente. No estamos solos, unidos venceremos.

Translation: Esteemed customer, due to the city authorities suspending security patrols in the downtown area, in case you are the victim of any crime, let us know here in this establishment and you will receive assistance and the criminal will get what he deserves. We are not alone and united we shall overcome.
Well, that's pretty cool. It's probably only a matter of time before there is a serious confrontation between merchants and residents on one side and APPO on the other, come to the defense of one of their own.

A whistler's mother. I was sure you'd like to see one.

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