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Saturday, July 31, 1999 Published at 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK

World: Americas

Traffic police get female force

Mexico City: A 'little bite' can buy off the police

Mexico City's police chief is creating a women only traffic force because they are deemed less corrupt than their male colleagues.

In an unusual move to clean up the force, the city's 900 male traffic police are being stripped of their ticket books.

Instead, an elite corps of 60 women traffic police - with 22 vehicles - will have sole responsibility for handing out fines.

"There is a perception that the people holding the ticket books commit acts of corruption," police chief Alejandro Gertz told a news conference. ''That's why we are coming up with an adequate and sensible response."

The 'little bite'

Mexico City police are infamous for shaking down motorists over traffic violations - real or imagined.

[ image: Alejandro Gertz: 'An adequate and sensible response']
Alejandro Gertz: 'An adequate and sensible response'
When traffic offenders are pulled over, they know the routine - face a fine that can run to more than $60, or pay a small bribe called the "little bite".

But from Monday, if a traffic officer stops someone, he must call one of the two-women teams.

The mini force will handle all of Mexico City, which has a population of some nine million, but Mr Gertz said more units would be added later.

"Police-women have a high esteem for the people," he added. "That's why there is much less tension - and the work they will carry out will be very notable."

According to Reforma newspaper, Mexico City police handed out 1.6 million tickets last year.

Last November, 44 Mexico City police and security guards were charged with crimes including rape and murder in a major operation to root out corrupt officers.

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