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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 11:45 GMT
The 'Giuliani project': One year on
By Daniela Volker
Producer and director of Correspondent's Gringo Crimebusters

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was enlisted to help cut rampant crime in Mexico City. Throughout 2003, Daniela Volker had exclusive access to the Mexican police and the American team carrying out the year-long, unprecedented crimebusting exercise.

Rudolph Giuliani in Mexico City
Giuliani dramatically reduced crime in New York
The "Giuliani project" was a challenge from the beginning.

Between 3,000 and 5,000 offences are committed every day in Mexico City, and only 10% to 20% of those are reported. Of those, only about 10% lead to convictions.

The police force is notoriously corrupt, and officers are not often motivated to risk their lives for a meagre wage of about $350 a month.

With security being one of the most talked about issues, all eyes were set on Giuliani.

Could he manage to wipe out corruption and reinstate morale in an underfunded and undisciplined police corps? Could he help the police chief to make Mexico City's streets safe again?

Transferable model?

To succeed with such an undertaking, Mr Giuliani would have to sell his crime strategy to ordinary Mexicans and, more crucially, to the rank-and-file police.

On his two-day visit in January 2003, Mr Giuliani brought along the people who had helped him turn New York into one of America's safest cities.

They could have used that money to buy us cars and equipment, rather than bringing in Giuliani. It's absurd
Mexican policeman
They toured the city looking at crime hotspots, escorted by 400 officers and a convoy of 16 bomb-proof cars.

On his heavily publicised walkabouts, Mr Giuliani seemed more of a politician on the campaign trail than a crimebuster.

He talked about cultural issues, about not wanting to impose New York style policing.

"Some things are transferable and some are not. But no city is ungovernable, and crime is the greatest enemy of the community."

Culture clash

This may have rung true with people like Leomar Silva, a 41-year-old mother-of-two who is scared of leaving her flat for fear of what might happen.

She told the programme: "It's really affecting me and my daughters' development.

"I'd love to take them to the park, to the cinema, to tour the city, but I'm scared to go out."

She believes Mr Giuliani can really make a difference.

Bernard Kerik
Bernard Kerik ran the "Giuliani project" in Mexico City
But Mexico has an often fraught and difficult relationship with the "Big Brother from the North".

Importing a team of Americans to do what the Mexicans ought to be managing on their own is controversial.

The police Mr Giuliani has been trying to reform are less convinced than the residents.

They have to buy their own uniforms, pay for repairs to their patrol cars, and rely on bribes to get by.

Many resent his hefty fee of over $4m: "They could have used that money to buy us cars and equipment, rather than bringing in Giuliani. It's absurd."


The "Giuliani project" was run by his former police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Maureen Casey and a team of people from his security consultancy firm, Giuliani Partners.

Experts visited regularly and looked at all aspects of policing, such as training, operations and information-gathering.

Overcoming language barrier and punctuality issues was one thing, but the Americans seemed shocked by the degree to which the Mexican system would need to change.

The gathering and distributing of information - crucial to determine where police officers are best deployed - were in their infancy at best.

Mexican police officer Fantasma
Mexican police like Fantasma had to work in shambolic conditions
Much time was wasted and resources squandered.

Every day, more than 280 policemen who should have been out patrolling were involved in adding to headquarters' paper mountains of often inaccurate statistics.

There were no fax machines, let alone computers, linking the precincts to headquarters.

Equipment such as radios for officers on foot patrol was often faulty or altogether nonexistent.

Shooting training for police was shambolic and record keeping inefficient. Supervision could be lax, with the officers appearing lazy and uninterested.

"It's like NYPD in the 40s and 50s", mused Commissioner Kerik.

Relationship breakdown

The co-ordination of activities seemed to become a logistical nightmare.

The reason we weren't there [at the announcement of the recommendations] is that we weren't invited
Bernard Kerik, who led the Giuliani project
The process of assessing the needs of Mexico City's police became drawn out and overran its deadline by several months.

Eventually a beleaguered police chief announced Mr Giuliani's 146 recommendations to the press in early August, before the police force itself had been told.

The recommendations included modernisation, a crackdown on corruption, targeting of crime hotspots and legal reform to support the police.

But where was Mr Giuliani? Why had he not been seen in Mexico for seven months and why did he not announce the recommendations?

"One of the reasons the mayor wasn't there - our staff wasn't there - was that we weren't invited", quipped Bernard Kerik in New York.

No quick fix

Despite the breakdown in communication, many of the Giuliani recommendations, based on his experts' findings, are being implemented by the police.

Police officers are being sent to university to do courses, supervision seems to have increased and officers are on strict orders not to take bribes.

Lawmakers are debating a change in the law to increase the police's powers of investigation and arrest.

The changes complement a number of reforms that had already been initiated by Police Chief Marcelo Ebrard before Mr Giuliani's people started working in Mexico.

The intention is certainly there. Whether it will work or not is another matter.

To people like Leomar Silva, changes initiated by the "Giuliani project" do make a difference.

She is not alone in thinking that lawmakers will listen to a foreigner's suggestions more than if they were homegrown.

But people do not expect quick fixes - they know it will take a long time for things to get better.

Correspondent: Gringo Crimebusters was broadcast on Sunday, 30 November, 2003 at 1915 GMT on BBC Two.

Gringo Crimebusters
24 Nov 03  |  Correspondent
Have your say
28 Nov 03  |  Correspondent
Mexico's drugs battle intensifies
03 Apr 03  |  Americas
Rebirth of a New York hero
13 Feb 02  |  Americas

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