About the Author: Alec Ross serves as Senior Advisor for Innovation in the Office of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Earlier this month, I was in Ciudad Juarez, working with leaders from the local, state, and federal government in Mexico, as well as local civil society organizations and telecommunications companies to help build an anonymous crime reporting TipLine for the local community. The problems with drug trafficking and violence in Mexico are tragic and severe -- and there are, of course, no simple answers. I've appreciated the feedback and discussion that this initiative has produced.
Transnational criminal organizations have been preying on the people of Ciudad Juarez. I heard firsthand from the people of Juarez that they want and need to take a stand against the violence that is harming their community.
The TipLine (which will launch in the months ahead), is one small part of a much larger effort by the Mexican and U.S. governments to restore security to the border region. The United States has invested $1.4 billion so far in the Merida Initiative, which focuses on the shared challenge of narco-fueled violence in the region. The TipLine is a pilot, but if we can make a difference in the epicenter of the violence along our shared border, then there may be an opportunity to scale it more broadly.
Some of these efforts seek to address root causes, and some seek to address immediate needs. One of the immediate needs is to restore public confidence in the police force, and ensure accountability and transparency in law enforcement wherever possible. To this end, we are working with Mexico to establish anonymous crime reporting in Ciudad Juarez. Part of a plan to overhaul the public safety communications system in the city, the idea for the TipLine has two primary components. The first is to provide anonymity to callers so that they can be assured of their safety, and the second is to create transparency in how the police have responded to the tips by establishing a public website that provides information about the investigations in response to tips.
The TipLine effort is a tiny part of the Merida Initiative, but one that we think holds promise and one that responds to what people at the community level have asked of us.
The TipLine project has to be implemented with great care by many stakeholders for it to be successful. We are working very closely with civil society organizations in Ciudad Juarez to make sure the service meets their needs and expectations. We are working very closely with the telecommunications companies in the city -- all of whom have agreed to help make the service secure. And, of course, we are working with Mexican government and law enforcement officials, who are committed to making this a useful public service. All stakeholders are involved in the creation of a strategy of public education to promote the service when it becomes operational. In the meantime, we are taking all the necessary precautions to ensure this is done right.
There are no "silver bullet" solutions to the problems with drug trafficking in Mexico. There will be many answers working at many different levels on different parts of the problem. With the TipLine, our goal is to put better tools into communities to play a role in combating the violence. Listening to local civil society organizations is a critically important part of our work. There is a great deal of mistrust between security forces and local communities, which we are looking to bridge in a responsible manner.
This is no time to sit back and simply watch an ever-rising homicide rate. This is the time to work closely together with our Mexican partners to take action. People are dying, and this is one small way in which we can help.