An all-women force drives corruption off the roads: City Life: Mexico City

TRAFFIC TAILBACKS are one of the torments of driving in Mexico City, swarming with more than 3.5 million registered vehicles. To many traffic police, each idling car represents an opportunity. For a small payment, called a mordida or little bite, they can choose not to write out violations and are quite happy to pocket the change.

Until last week, pairs of these brown-uniformed cops would lurk in the rush-hour troublespots, ticket books at the ready, palms outstretched, pistol in the pocket. Most seemed far less concerned with traffic flow than with their personal cashflow.

But last Monday all 900 male traffic officers in Mexico City were forced to turn in their ticket pads and give way to an elite all-woman force of 120 cisnes - or swans - riding four to a car. Still, in a city with an official population of 9 million - and unofficial census estimates of upwards of 23 million - this represents precious few. Drink-driving laws are lax, breathalysers are rare and stopping at red lights is optional. Most traffic police prefer to survey the cars waiting to merge on to the ring road, diligently searching for an expired pollution certificate or licence plate they can point out so they get a cash incentive from the motorist not to issue a citation.

Last year, only 1.7 million traffic tickets were filed and 90 per cent went unpaid. "There is a perception that the people holding the ticket books commit acts of corruption," says Alejandro Gertz, the Secretary of Public Security. "That's why we are coming up with asensible response."

There are a few women officers, known as foxes or zorros, but they are in a glamorous, black-clad, gun- toting demolition squad andhang on to the leads of German shepherd dogs. The swans are unarmed, and must rely on persuasion rather than threat. Their salaries average even less than the typical pounds 300 take-home pay of the traditional traffic policemen.

But the city fathers are confident the swans will not take bribes. "Women by nature are more moral," the Public Security spokesman, Valentin Perez, said. "They take the straight road."

So far this year, 44 policemen and security guards have been charged with crimes. "Show your identification to the cops, if it is requested," says Debra Pike-Tritton, a long-time resident of Mexico City. "But do not hand it to them. You may not get it back, especially if you have refused to pay a bribe. Some sell your papers."

Experienced drivers usually keep a copy of the Mexican rules of the road in the glove compartment. When pulled over, most drivers and traffic police are willing to settle on one-third the maximum fine.

Jose Luis, a bartender, was nabbed for double-parking this week, but the old methods failed him. When he tried to slip the policewoman a 50- peso note to forget about it, she pursed her lips and continued filling in the form. She slapped away his attempt to put the folded bill into her pocket.

"Nothing doing," Jose Luis muttered later. "She told me if I pay this in three days at the station, they'll cut the fine in half. But I just don't know. I have been driving 15 years and never paid a ticket yet."

Could this finally be the swan-song of the macho ticket dodger as well as the corrupt cop?

Jan McGirk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN 1:1 Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified teache...

SEN Teachers and Support Staff

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

English and Media Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English & Media Teacher - ...

Y1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Y1 Teacher required for a So...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week