community police in chilapa On patrol in Chilapa. la jornada

Community police take over in Chilapa

Fed up with violence by two criminal gangs, indigenous communities take over

There’s a new authority and a new system of justice in the Guerrero town of Chilapa following a revolution of sorts on Saturday by residents of surrounding indigenous communities.

The war-torn district has been the scene of turf battles between the rival gangs Los Rojos and Los Ardillos, whose aggressions have resulted in countless deaths and left a community living in terror and the local economy in a stranglehold.

Those factors triggered a response on Saturday when community police from some 30 indigenous villages set up roadblocks in Chilapa, seized the firearms of the 40 local municipal police officers and began patrolling neighborhoods with the declared intention of dismantling the criminal gangs.

They have taken the law into their own hands — or what little of it there was — and say they plan to remain until the criminals — allegedly guilty of protection rackets, extortion and kidnapping — have been expelled.

One of the first tasks of Chilapa’s new police force was to round up suspected collaborators of the drug gangs. They found 10 Saturday afternoon and night, all of whom were suspected of being Los Rojos informers, and marched them to the central plaza.

But they were not held for long.

Early yesterday morning, the captives were set free after they they promised to change. “We spoke with them and their families and told them that most were young people who could still get back on the right track and work hard,” said one of the town’s new police officers. “They promised to leave that life behind so we set them free.”

Time, perhaps, will tell how effective is the new justice system in Chilapa, but it’s not likely that state authorities will wait very long to find out. They have already begun a dialogue with the dissident residents and their police, which succeeded in persuading them to give the guns back this morning to municipal police.

Government Secretary David Cienfuegos Salgado said talks continue with the aim of convincing them to return to their communities. In return, the government will install state police in the area and put them in charge of maintaining security. Public works projects for the communities are also on the table.

Acting Governor Rogelio Ortega declared that the state continues to have authority in Chilapa, and that the National Gendarmerie, the Army and state police are working to maintain control.

Mayor Francisco Javier García, who last November said, “We’re terrified,” when describing the crime situation, said the community police who took over the town on Saturday have some valid demands and some can be met by the local government.

But he also asked that the state send more security forces to stop the crime gangs.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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