If people don’t trust the police, they are less likely to call them for help, which undermines the justice system.
Recognizing the importance of public confidence, Querétaro state in Mexico has implemented several initiatives to build greater trust in its police. In this exclusive interview, Mr. Juan Martin Granados Torres, Secretary of Government, State of Querétaro, reveals nine proven methods to win citizen trust.
One of the safest of Mexico’s 32 states, Querétaro has implemented nine methods to boost trust in its police force:
- Close cooperation between authorities
- Secure sharing of information
- Recording crimes at the scene
- Using preventive strategies to fight crime
- Increasing participation from citizens
- Protecting victims and suspects
- Ensuring human rights for the accused
- Everybody speaking the same language
- Demonstrating tangible results.
So how do you build trust with citizens? Mr. Juan Martin Granados Torres identifies nine trust-building methods deployed by Querétaro state.
Mr. Juan Martin Granados Torres, Secretary of Government, State of Querétaro
1. Close cooperation between authorities
Since 2016, the Centro de Coordinación Querétaro (CQ-CIAS) command center and other state institutions have worked together under a security and justice model called COSMOS. Bringing together social science, IT, legal and governmental administration specialists, COSMOS aims to create a more just and peaceful society in Querétaro.
Using technology to share information more easily has expanded agency cooperation and brought many benefits. Incidents are now dealt with more rapidly and effectively, freeing up resources to solve more cases. Easier information sharing has also helped improve crime prevention. People feel safer, helping to further build trust between the state and the public.
Querétaro is now seen as a benchmark in criminal justice by other Mexican states and internationally. The state has received numerous requests for visits from people keen to learn more.
2. Secure sharing of information
Crime fighting depends on the sharing of confidential information about cases and suspects. Data encryption is vital to keep the information provided by citizens secure and give them confidence their privacy is protected.
Querétaro’s authorities rely on MXLINK, a Secure Mobile Virtual Network Operator (SMVNO) service for sharing secure voice, images, videos and documents. Torres says this gives citizens a 100% guarantee their information is kept private: “Because citizens know that information is encrypted, crime reporting has been strengthened. They have confidence the information they provide and their identity will remain confidential.”
Another bonus is that the authorities’ operations are kept safe and its information protected against intrusion and criminal misuse.
3. Recording crimes at the scene
Police officers record crimes via an app on their tablets at the incident scene, from start to end. Says Torres: “This allows citizens to report a complaint at the scene without having to go to a prosecutor, which saves time.”
Previously, police officers needed nearly a whole eight-hour shift to file a report; now it takes only 50-60 minutes, allowing them to handle more cases. As a result, citizens can see immediately that the first step has been taken on the road to justice and that the crime won’t be ignored. Police officers can also now record and share images and videos securely, not possible with the previous narrowband network, providing better evidence for prosecutors and the judicial authority.
Initially, officers had doubts about the tablets, but they soon saw the time-saving advantages and now regard them as one of their most important tools.
4. Using preventive strategies to fight crime
Effective crime prevention enhances citizens’ quality of life. To achieve this, Querétaro state has its own crime analysis unit. For example, using data from the crime reporting app, they can see where and when most crimes happen and focus their resources to prevent them. “Through the work of the analysis unit, our knowledge of criminal behavior increases, allowing us to identify specific areas involved in certain types of crimes,” explains Torres.
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5. Increasing participation from citizens
Getting citizens to trust the authorities also means involving them more. It’s vital to keep them up to date on the police and justice system and allow them to voice their opinions. This helps the authorities to better understand and improve their performance.
One strategy is to introduce other ways of settling conflicts. A special police unit can help to resolve incidents that are not crimes but disputes between citizens. Querétaro state also plans to establish citizen participation councils that can make suggestions on cases that are not confidential.
Following contact with the police, victims and suspects can complete a satisfaction survey to give immediate feedback on the police. Currently, 90% of people involved in incidents respond to the survey, providing an exchange of opinions and information that helps achieve better results.
“We hear almost immediately what the citizen thinks of our work,” says Torres. “We want to give a voice to people, because only then can we understand what went well, what went wrong and correct it. Justice becomes more understandable and more participatory.”
6. Protecting victims and suspects
Querétaro state follows up individual cases to learn more about them and help eliminate irregularities for citizens. For example, they maintain regular contact with crime victims, while each litigant can request individual follow-up for more information on their case. They can also get a legal counsel certified by the state’s authorities or at a national level.
Reports of domestic violence have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. Querétaro has a unique follow-up system to protect victims of gender-based and domestic violence. Victims can be issued a bracelet that indicates when a suspect has breached a set perimeter. The victim is immediately alerted and can call the police.
7. Ensuring human rights for the accused
Querétaro not only ensures the human rights of victims, but also of those deprived of their liberty. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the state guarantees that incarcerated people can continue to see relatives, even if not in person.
Electronic devices enable detainees to maintain contact with their families, as well as with their legal defense team. Currently, around 500 teleconferences a week are run in Querétaro prisons.
8. Everybody speaking the same language
Understanding legal terminology and processes, when filing a crime report for example, can be challenging. This can also be true for police officers when dealing with lawyers or judges - it’s almost as if they are all speaking “different” languages.
In Querétaro, the tablets used for filing crime reports have helped to “standardize” on one common language. Now all stakeholders can speak and understand each other more easily – not only authorities, lawyers from different areas of the law, and citizens, but also engineers, sociologists and psychologists. For instance, police officers know what the judge needs, the judge comprehends what the police officer reports and citizens understand what the authorities are doing.
9. Demonstrating tangible results
Demonstrating real results is another important way to create trust. When citizens call for help, they need to be sure that the police will come and that the information they provide will remain confidential.
Given this starting point, Querétaro is on track:
- Querétaro state has the lowest crime and homicide rates of the 32 Mexican states.
- All crimes against women (family violence) have been resolved and those responsible are detained and have been or are due to be judged.
- About 80% of homicides are resolved, with criminals taken detained, judged and sentenced.
- All kidnapping cases (which are very few) are solved, with criminals judged or waiting to be judged.
- The sheer convenience of the new technologies in the field has led to as much as 35% increase in the filing of crime reports over the last four years. The use of tablets enables police officers to file a report electronically in less than one hour instead of the near eight hours previously taken. This allows them to take on more cases during their shift.
Want to learn more about Querétaro’s pioneering approaches? Download the Querétaro case study –