Starting in 2000 with the election of leftist politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as Mexico City's mayor, the city began investing in a series of
innovative social programs. Shannon O'Neil, a Mexico expert from the Council on Foreign Relations, explained that Marcelo Ebrard, who was mayor between 2006 and 2012, and his
predecessor, Obrador, "went street by street in the Centro Historico and got rid of the ambulantes [unregistered street vendors]. It's a
variant of the broken windows theme." Ebrard also told the police to focus on ticketing drivers who neglected to wear seatbelts. He installed
security cameras throughout the city, and set up the alcoholímetro checkpoints to crack down on drunk driving.
"Accidents caused by drunk drivers are down 30 percent," Perez said. Other types of crime have fallen as well. In 2012, the U.S. Department of State
dropped its "critical crime level" warning for Mexico City. Police patrols, security cameras, and a relentless focus on reducing crime in in
upper-middle-class neighborhoods such as Polanco, Condesa, and La Roma have helped change the city. In particular, the alcoholímetro anti-drunk driving
program has been a success. "People think it's annoying, but it really works, it's lowered the number of drunk driving accidents," Eduardo Guerrero said.
In recent years Mexico City has also achieved impressive reductions in assaults, robberies, and violent crime. In 2011, inter-gang conflicts in Mexico
City, the largest urban hub in the country, accounted for about 1 percent of the total number of drug-related murders reported in Mexico.
On a warm winter afternoon, Oscar Tapia, a 33-year-old cable technician, took a break from a game of basketball near the glass-paneled Reforma 222 shopping center, not far from where Perez and his team ran the alcolímetro site.
Tapia looked up to a row of aging, graffiti-smeared cement apartment buildings with heavy grates over their windows. "This used to be a conflict zone, a
point of sale for drugs," Oscar, who grew up in the neighborhood, explained. "It used to be that if you went to visit friends or family you had to leave by
eleven or twelve because crystalazos [smash-and-grab robberies] were common." As he talked, a blue and grey police car passed slowly on the
street. "Now the patrols pass every twenty minutes," Oscar explained.
Mexico City's success in reducing crime helped fellow PRD politician Miguel Mancera win a landslide victory in the race to replace Ebrard as the city's mayor. During the campaign, Mancera claimed that security was his first policy priority. He promised to put "police by your side in the community" and to "keep reducing crime." He won an overwhelming 63% of the vote.
Mexico City, the police benefit from a favorable power dynamic. Although there are rumors that some trafficking organizations might be trying to muscle their way
into Mexico City's retail drug markets, the city is generally not a focal point for cartel violence. The police enjoy the benefit of being the most
powerful armed force on the streets. In other parts of Mexico, where local police offices are short-staffed and poorly equipped to face
threats from cartel members, the federal government has used the army and federal police to battle drug traffickers. Aside from a couple of high-profile yet isolated incidents, such as the
triple homicide at the capital's airport and the pair of decapitated bodies found at an upscale shopping mall in 2012, Mexico City has largely been spared from
the grisly violence affecting other parts of the country.