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Police, military vehicles patrol Tecomán. Police, military vehicles patrol Tecomán.

Citizens unaffected in high-crime Tecomán

In Mexico's most violent municipality, criminals stick to killing each other

Tecomán, Colima, is statistically Mexico’s most violent municipality but many local residents say their lives are largely unaffected by the violence.

The state of Colima recorded Mexico’s highest per-capita homicide rate last year, with 93.6 murders per 100,000 residents.

But with 223 intentional homicides in 2017, Tecomán almost doubled that figure, registering a per-capita rate of 172.5.

In the face of such alarming statistics, residents say they try to allay feelings of insecurity and fear by reciting an old adage: criminals only kill each other.

A 19-year-old woman interviewed by the newspaper El Universal said she had never directly witnessed a gun fight in the streets of Tecomán, although she added that she had heard gun shots before and recognized that things happen now that didn’t happen before.

However, she said that no one in her family had been directly affected by violence although criminals did try to extort her family by calling and claiming they had kidnapped her.

That attempt failed, she explained, because one of her relatives had seen her a short time before the call was made.

The young woman, who declined to give her name out of embarrassment rather than fear, said she prefers not to stay out past 11:00pm because “you don’t know if they are going to attack you or even kill you.”

Fifteen kilometers from the city center lies El Real beach where Roberto Aguilar earns a living singing traditional corridos, norteño songs and ballads.

He too told El Universal that he has never been a victim of crime although he admitted that violence indirectly affects his work.

“I’m from Caleta de Campos, Michoacán, but I’ve been living and working in Tecomán for more than 20 years.  Before I made 400 or 500 pesos [US $21 – $26] but the people have gone . . .” he said.

One of two local journalists who cover the crime beat told El Universal that violence hadn’t affected the city to a point where residents have been forced to drastically change their daily habits.

“It’s not that we are used to violence in itself but Tecomán is a calm place; people continue to live their normal lives because what’s happening in other parts of the country, where there really is war, is still not happening here,” Arturo Ávalos said.

“The problem here is drug addiction and the fight for control of the plaza. I think that 90% of the homicides have had to do with that,” he added.

An operations director for the Tecomán police told El Universal that the measurement of crime on a per-capita basis shouldn’t apply to the municipality because its population is fewer than 125,000 people.

That means that a single homicide causes the statistics to spike, Jorge Arturo Torres Sánchez said. He also asserted that there hadn’t been a violent attack in the center of the city for a month.

The municipal police chief supported his subordinate’s statements, adding that unlike other parts of the country, criminal organizations that operate in Tecomán are unlikely to engage violently with security forces.

Tecomán

“There is no challenge to the authorities here yet. We continue to patrol at all hours and make arrests, crime is hidden away and when we catch them, they prefer to escape than to fight,” Víctor Humberto Barrios Alonso said.

However, while gangs may be reluctant to clash with police, the same hesitancy seemingly doesn’t extend to local politicians.

On February 20 — a week after El Universal spoke to the two police — a 28-year-old municipal councilor representing the National Action Party (PAN) was shot and killed on a ranch in the municipality.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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