The Mexican state of Nuevo Leon plans to call for bids early next year on a 1 billion-peso ($81 million) project to build housing exclusively for police in what would be Mexico’s first police city.
Javier Trevino, secretary general for the northern industrial state, said the government wants to form a public- private partnership to build a neighborhood for 800 police officers and their families.
“It’s a way of keeping them protected and for the good police to be better off,” Trevino said in a Nov. 1 interview from the state government palace in Monterrey. “It’s an issue of professionalizing and dignifying the police.”
The housing benefit, in which officers won’t own the housing and won’t pay for it while in service, is part of the state’s long-term strategy to beat back organized crime violence that flared in October. Nationwide, drug-related killings have exceeded 28,000 since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office and deployed troops to quell organized crime.
Nuevo Leon’s strategy, which was presented to Calderon on Oct. 29, includes ousting corrupt police, unifying municipal police into one homogeneous state force and boosting spending to build parks and other social projects in the poorest neighborhoods, Trevino said.
Four Police Cities
The police city is one of four the state wants to eventually build, Trevino said. The first will likely be in the municipality of Garcia, just to the west of Monterrey, followed by one each in the north, south and eastern part of the metropolitan area. Officers can be forced to leave the neighborhood if they are removed from the force, Trevino said. The details of the financing are being worked on, he added.
Nuevo Leon increased salaries of state officers and will apply the pay scale to local police once the unified police force is completed, Trevino said. The base monthly salary for a state police officer is 12,800 pesos ($1,040), up from 8,594 pesos, he said.
The housing benefit and higher pay will help Nuevo Leon meet a goal of boosting its force to 14,000 officers from 8,000 now, including municipal police, he said. The benefits include a life insurance policy of 1 million pesos and education scholarships for officers’ children.
“This is very important because the good police officers are going to stay,” Trevino said.
The state is spending 2 billion pesos on security next year, Trevino said. In one project, the government will spend 140 million pesos to build a park and clean up the Independencia neighborhood, one of 70 poor areas in metropolitan Monterrey that local universities identified in a study as prone to violence and organized gangs, such as the Zetas.
“In these 70 sectors is where these 16- and 17-year-old kids are coming out with their machine guns, and they convert into Zetas,” said Trevino, a former communications director for cement maker Cemex SAB.
Nuevo Leon is calling on companies to help with the social projects. The state is home to Cemex, the largest cement maker in the Americas, in addition to soft-drink producer Fomento Economico Mexicano SAB, the owner of Latin America’s largest convenience-store chain, and chemical maker Alfa SAB.
“ Many companies want to participate,” he said. “They realize that is has been many years of not paying attention to this.”
The state backs the federal government’s strategy of a frontal attack on organized crime in coordination with local law enforcement, Trevino said. Some states have adopted the stance that organized crime is a federal issue that should be solved by the central government, he said.
Last year, state police and the military drew weapons on each other in tense standoffs. Now, meetings between the military, federal and local officials are being held more than once a week to map out joint operations against criminals, he said.
Recent attacks with grenades and machine gun fire on police headquarters are retaliations for successful military-police operations and efforts to weed out corrupt police, Trevino said.
“We’re saying, ‘Yes, this is our problem and we have to face it in a very coordinated manner with the federal government,’” Trevino said. “The only way to attack this problem is with everything you’ve got.”
The peso gained 0.2 percent to 12.3097 per dollar at 11:44 a.m. New York time from 12.3365 yesterday.
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