Members of a federal police unit in Mexico have traded in their weapons for musical instruments in an effort to increase public trust in the institution, but doubts remain as to how much the move can actually improve the image of the force against the backdrop of the country’s deteriorating security situation.
Led by Mexico Federal Police Mariachi Musical Director Juan Ramón Soto, a group of 21 professional musicians trained by the police and prepared to react in emergency situations have exchanged their guns for guitarrones, El Universal reported.
According to Soto, the group is dedicated to showing the human side of the Federal Police by bringing one of the most famous and popular styles of Mexican folk music to communities wracked by violence and high rates of crime.
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Soto told El Universal that the playing of music is symbolic as it shows where the unit is present, and he hopes the presence of cops wielding trumpets rather than firearms will break down widespread mistrust of the police — a chronic problem in Mexico that has contributed to severe underreporting of crimes.
“Citizens have an erroneous perception of the Federal Police,” Soto told El Universal. “We’re providing crime prevention through music and trust.”
According to El Universal, the mariachi unit of the Federal Police is spearheading operations that focus on “social proximity” and “crime prevention” through musical concerts in some of Mexico’s deadliest states, such as Michoacán, Tamaulipas and Sinaloa.
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Mexican citizens have an incredibly low amount of trust in the country’s security forces, and that trust is not likely to be rebuilt simply through song.
According to a January 2017 opinion poll, Mexico’s Municipal Police were the lowest-rated security institution in the country, while the Federal Police were rated only slightly better. Moreover, two-thirds of those surveyed believe that the police are “controlled by organized crime,” and more than a fifth said that only a total overhaul would improve public trust in the institution.
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The creation of the mariachi unit is a creative attempt to address a serious problem, but the move doesn’t tackle the structural issues contributing to a breakdown of public trust in authorities amid rising violence in Mexico. Improving the image of the often overworked and underpaid Federal Police is an important goal, but one that will only be met with serious large-scale reforms.