Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to discuss violence at
By Chris Roberts \ EL PASO TIMES
Posted: 10/23/2011 12:00:00 AM MDT
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is scheduled to speak in
Juárez on Monday about reducing crime in that violent city. His
success in tackling crime in New York City would seem to make him an
expert on the subject.
His talk is part of Juárez Competitiva, a two-week event to improve
the city's tarnished image left by a drug war that has taken the
lives of more than 8,500 people since 2008. Giuliani will speak at 4
p.m. at Centro Cultural Paso del Norte.
In the early 1990s, murders, burglaries and drug dealing could be
found in nearly every New York neighborhood. The Port Authority Bus
Terminal presented "a grim gantlet for bus passengers dodging
beggars, drunks, thieves, and destitute drug addicts," according to a
widely quoted passage from a 1992 New York Times story.
During Giuliani's term as mayor, from 1993 to 2001, the city was
Some say Giuliani was aided by an improving economic climate that
helped bring down crime in many communities across the nation. But
even critics gave Giuliani credit for the magnitude of the drop in
crime and for changing the city's mood.
"He ended the feeling that the city was out of control, which many
felt during the epidemic of crime and crack," wrote Jack Newfield, in
a 2002 article published in The Nation magazine.
But when Giuliani Partners, the former mayor's consulting company,
wrote a 146-point plan in 2003 on how to do the same thing in Mexico
City, something was lost in translation.
The plan was criticized for ignoring cultural differences and on-the-
ground realities. Critics say Giuliani applied the New York City plan
with few adjustments. Carlos Slim, described as Mexico's richest man,
reportedly raised $4.3 million to pay for the study.
The El Paso Times received no response to numerous phone calls and an
email seeking comment for this story.
Among the critics is William Bratton, who, as the New York City
police commissioner in the mid-'90s, was instrumental in the
turnaround. He most recently was the Los Angeles police commissioner.
Now Bratton operates his own security consulting firm that recommends
many of the same strategies used in New York.
Despite the Giuliani plan, which was used piecemeal, crime increased
in Mexico City in the mid-2000s, said Diane Davis, a Massachusetts
Institute of Technology professor in the Department of Urban Studies
and Planning. Since then, she said, things have improved.
"The influence of Giuliani's plan was probably minimal," said Davis,
who wrote an academic paper on the plan. "On the other hand, it did
start a chain of policy decisions, a dialogue that sent things in the
Part of the problem, Bratton said, is that the situation in New York
City was distinctly different from the situations in Mexico's most
violent cities. And he is not optimistic about Juárez's immediate
"Good luck to them," Bratton said. "The situation is, in all aspects,
He points to "widespread corruption and poorly trained police"
coupled with an ineffective judicial system. Juárez is like a
critical patient that must be stabilized before a system such as the
one used in New York City can work, he said.
In New York City, Bratton and Giuliani created a bottom-up strategy
dubbed "broken windows." Arresting petty criminals -- aggressive
squeegee men and marijuana smokers, for example -- set a tone that
criminal behavior would not be tolerated. They filled the courts and
That approach was applied in Mexico City, but it ignored basic
economics, Bratton said.
"A huge part of the (Mexico City) economy is an underground economy,"
People making their living on the streets, including squeegee men and
"frenaleros," who watch your parked car for a couple of pesos, have
few other ways to make money, Bratton said. And even if certain
practices are prohibited, he said, "they will find more ways to work."
Filling jails with frenaleros, or parqueros as they are known in
Juárez, who were supporting extended families, did little to curb
crime in Mexico City.
"Trying to enforce broken windows, you just throw the economy into a
tailspin," Bratton said.
New York City had about 75 squeegee men, Bratton said, "and most of
them were on some other form of (social service) benefit."
The Giuliani plan, as in New York City, leaned heavily on
enforcement. But many said it did not take into account endemic
corruption, which is a problem in Mexico.
The plan reportedly called for reorganizing law enforcement -- in
some cases requiring constitutional amendments. It also called for
giving police better training, higher wages and new uniforms.
It recommended a computer tracking system used successfully in New
York City, called CompStat, which has been widely adopted in U.S.
police departments. Bratton stands behind the system and has
recommended it in other countries, including Venezuela.
"How are you going to understand how bad your problem is if you can't
look at it?" Bratton said.
Tracking crime reveals the scope of the problem, he said, and sheds
light on the sources. It allows efficient use of resources and,
ultimately, a way of measuring whether the efforts were successful.
"The problem in Mexico is É most people don't report (crime),"
Bratton said. "The deficiency in Mexico is that nobody believes any
of the crime statistics."
Victims fear that they might report an offender who pays the police,
he said. "And they don't want police in their homes so they can see
what they've got and then the police come back to rob you," he added.
Giuliani Partners also apparently did not take into account the
importance of the New York City mayor's control of other agencies,
"When you look at Mr. Giuliani's success in New York," Bratton said,
"he had budgetary and legal control over the police."
In Mexico, there were constitutional divisions of responsibility for
the law enforcement branches. And, in the early 2000s, control had
been wrested from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI,
which had ruled the country for more than 70 years. A lack of
cooperation among the political parties made progress difficult,
MIT's Davis wrote in her paper.
Giuliani's control extended well beyond the police. He controlled
budgets for prosecutors and public defenders, Bratton said, as well
as appointed some members of the judiciary.
That gave Giuliani the political leverage to push police to make more
arrests and prosecutors to do more arraignments, Bratton said.
"In Mexico there is nothing like that," Bratton said. "In Mexico
City, Giuliani, by most accounts É he failed."
Bratton agrees, however, that bringing security to Juárez "will take
some serious reorganization." In the current situation, the broken-
windows approach "becomes a source of corruption," increasing the
opportunities for police shakedowns, he said. And the broken-windows
approach also is not designed to take on heavily armed drug cartels,
which have been fighting violently for the lucrative drug routes into
"There is a proposal from one of the political parties to eliminate
(local police) because they are hopelessly corrupt," Bratton said.
Authority would transfer to state and federal law enforcement
officials "who are at a higher level in policing, at a better trained
level," he said.
But even in New York City, police were criticized for violating
residents' civil rights in some high-profile cases.
Two men were killed by police under questionable circumstances. They
included Amadou Diallo, who was shot 19 times while standing in front
of his Bronx apartment. Police said that when Diallo reached for his
wallet to get identification, they thought he was reaching for a gun.
And a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, was tortured in a police
"The (Louima) attack became a national symbol of police brutality and
fed perceptions that white police officers in New York were harassing
or abusing young black men as part of a citywide crackdown on crime,"
according to The New York Times.
Asked whether more emphasis -- money and resources -- should have
been put on social services to deal with the underlying causes of
crime, Bratton said, "The first obligation of democracy is stability
Creating a social-service system without that "is like building it on
quicksand," he said.
In Juárez, there are complications, Davis said.
"They (city residents) might accept the security-first approach if
they trusted the police," Davis said, "if they thought they were
protecting all of society instead of positioning themselves for their
own institutional power or personal gain."
That problem also extends to the judicial system in Mexico, Bratton
"The judicial system, by American standards is incredibly complex and
doesn't produce great results," he said. "Very few end up getting
convicted. (Judges) are intimidated by cartels."
Ultimately, the success or failure of such plans is the
responsibility of the men and women implementing them.
Marcelo Ebrard, who was Mexico City's police chief when the Giuliani
plan was created, is now the city's mayor.
"He was able to do as mayor what you couldn't do as police chief,"
"I'm sure Ebrard learned from Giuliani's knowledge. Giuliani didn't
understand the nature and the complexity of the problems, but Ebrard
could take the kernel of some of that and translate it."
Chris Roberts may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6136.