Being a cop in Monterrey is considered a high-risk profession.
The police in the capital of Mexican’s northeastern state of Nuevo León receive constant death threats from drug gang members and then do battle with them on the streets. Some extort money from citizens to make up for their meager wages. Others receive payments from traffickers and become a “halcón” (hawk), a kind of cartel informant.
If a cop doesn’t comply with warring narcotic cartels, he’ll be targeted and ‘removed.’ So far this year, one hundred law enforcers have been killed either by gunfire or grenade explosions.
At 19:00, we join a squadron in a local police station in downtown Monterrey. The team of three men and a woman begin patrolling Vista Hermosa, the Jewish quarter of the city until 7:00 am.
At the doors to a convenience store, the guards stand on duty while eating some snacks. They carry high-caliber weapons and are protected by bulletproof vests. They move around in an amped-up pickup truck.
Drinking on the street, grand and petty theft, damage to personal and commercial property and carrying weapons are the most common crimes in one night. On a quiet night, this station receives up to seven complaints of grand theft auto.
Back at the convenience store, we notice that the law enforcement officials are calm and chat among themselves. And yet, clientele to the convenience store look restless and agitated by the presence of the police, undoubtedly due to the bad image they have earned over the years, either because they are easy targets for criminals to shoot at, or because they are easy pawns for drug traffickers to exploit and use.
Homero Guillermo Salcido Treviño, head of intelligence for Nuevo León state, was not so lucky. Last February, his body was found in a truck that caught fire in the center of Monterrey, after he was kidnapped by two fellow officers.
“For a relative of a police officer every day is almost like serving as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan or Iraq,” a relative told Metro. “The worst thing is you do not know which of your colleagues is selling you out to the bad guys,” he concluded.
Yet keeping order in the city is not so easy, especially by the presence of infiltrators or ‘hawks’ within corporations. As a result, a year ago companies began implementing further examinations of trust, a local government source revealed to Metro. “The lie detectors are not foolproof,” he said.
In truth, it appears what comes outs of your pocket could be the real difference, as we found out in our night in the police station’s jail cells.