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On patrol in Mexico's most dangerous city

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Police trampled over the scene where one man was killed - in front of his young family

Mexico's Ciudad Juarez is one of the world's most dangerous cities, plagued by battles between drug gangs. A BBC team witnessed its violence at first hand on a police patrol, as Ian Sherwood reports.


The sun sets early now that winter is approaching. It is nearly 1800 and Ciudad Juarez has already descended into darkness.

We drive up to Estacion Delicias police station, where all is quiet.

As we approach a busy roundabout, there is a white Suzuki jeep surrounded by armed police in the middle of the road

I explain that we are here to spend the evening on patrol with the municipal police.

We are escorted to a marked police vehicle, which pulls away at high speed.

The police lights flash. There is no siren and it is not clear where we are going as the vehicle zips through the streets of Juarez.

A few minutes later we stop.

A priest stands over the body of a murder victim
On average, seven people have been killed each day in Ciudad Juarez in 2009

In front of us a car is surrounded by people, including several police officers, some of whom have their faces concealed with black masks.

Suddenly it becomes clear why Ciudad Juarez has the label of being the world's most dangerous city.

The body of a man is slumped in the front passenger seat of the car. He has been shot several times in the chest. Paramedics arrive and he is pronounced dead.

His wife is standing close by, holding her infant daughter. She breaks down as she tells us that it is her husband inside the car.

The police seal off the area with tape. The bullet casings are marked out close to the car.

As the investigation into this murder gets under way we are told that there has been another killing close by.

After being ushered into the police vehicle once more we pull away.

Last rites

As we approach a busy roundabout, there is a white Suzuki jeep surrounded by armed police in the middle of the road.

As we get closer, a body clearly is visible, loosely covered by a blue coat.

White Suzuki Jeep covered in blood
One of the headlines in the local newspaper here reads: "More people are murdered here than in Iraq"

We get out of the police vehicle and approach the officers to be told that two people have been killed. The second victim is inside the car.

There are several bullet holes in the driver's side window at the front of the car, a further bullet hole has penetrated the back window of the car.

Many bullet casings are scattered on the road, glinting under the street lights.

In the distance we see a priest approaching the body in the road. He kneels down and administers the last rites to the victim and then he walks away.

Some police officers take photographs of the scene, vehicles pass on the busy road next to us and some buses pass by carrying children.

They hang out of the windows of the bus trying to make sense of what they have seen.

Cries of grief

Rocks are placed next to the bullet casings in the road.

An elderly man is escorted to the body, he crouches down close, a police officer pulls back the blue coat and the man holds his face in his hands and weeps.

A young woman grieves at the scene of a killing
Friends and relatives of the dead fill the scene with cries of grief

He has just identified the body of his seven-year-old grandson, Jaciel Ramirez. The man in car is his 28-year-old son, Raul.

The elderly man then calmly crosses the street, where he is greeted by his wife. She cries out loudly after her husbands tells her the news.

She is comforted by a friend, as she asks: "What has he done to deserve this"?

More relatives and friends come to the scene, the air is filled with cries of grief. One girl screams the boy's name as she tries to get closer to his body.

She is held back by the police and is then consoled by a man who embraces her.

We do not yet have the answers as to why these people were murdered.

On this one evening on these streets 15 people were killed, their names are added to a growing list of nearly 2,000 who have been murdered in Juarez so far this year.

One of the headlines in the local newspaper here reads: "More people are murdered here than in Iraq".

In Ciudad Juarez a taskforce of thousands of federal army soldiers, federal police and municipal police patrol the streets under direct orders from the president of Mexico to bring the violence under control.

The people of this city are asking why they are still not safe?

Map of Mexican drug cartels



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