Mexican Police read to combat crime

April 2005 -

Reading books to get a promotion: this is the task being faced by all 1200 police agents in Nezahualcóyotl, a suburb of Mexico City. The objective: a 50% reduction in crime.

In March 2005 the police corps in Nezahualcóyotl launched a large-scale reading project. All of the agents were ordered to read at least one book each month outside of their work. The project is an initiative of Mayor Luis Sánchez Jiménez. He presumes that reading makes all of us better people. 'Agents are not only there to catch criminals: they must also be able to communicate. Reading will teach the agents to express themselves better to the population, in turn resulting in a reduction in crime.'

For the first month the agents can choose their own book, but a reading list will be assigned as from April. This list includes authors such as Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz and Juan Rulfo, and even Agatha Christie. Workshops will also be organized with help from Mexican authors. Those agents who want to can learn about reading and understanding. A library area has also been created, and work schedules have been modified to give the police agents time to read.

'We have asked the population to donate books for the police. With a million inhabitants, we should be successful,' says José Jorge Amador, head of Public Safety. He says the police themselves are enthusiastic. Many positive reactions have also been received from other municipalities, where similar programs are being considered. The local population is convinced that the project will result in a reduction in crime. The reading plan is not mandatory for the time being, but not reading also means no promotion.