‘Angels of Silence’ become Mexican city’s newest police

AP, OAXACA, Mexico

Thu, Nov 21, 2013 - Page 7

Members of the newest police force in the Mexican colonial city of Oaxaca cannot hear or speak.

A group called the Angels of Silence operates the city’s surveillance cameras to look for crimes being committed on its streets.

Oaxaca state’s emergency services director Cynthia Zepeda said the officers have a highly developed visual sense and are not easily distracted.

“They allow us to notice situations that maybe a person who doesn’t have that disability wouldn’t notice. They read lips and can perceive suspicious movements in people,” Zepeda said.

Recently, one of the officers noticed a man acting suspiciously around a woman. When the officer had the surveillance camera close in on the couple he saw the man was passing her a small plastic bag that seemed to contain marijuana. Minutes later a police patrol arrived in the area and detained the man.

Oaxaca state Governor Gabino Cue decided to recruit the officers to make his government more inclusive of people with disabilities. Soon, the 20 officers were in charge of monitoring the city’s 200 surveillance cameras day and night.

Oaxaca is the first city in Mexico to recruit officers who cannot speak or hear as part of a pilot program, Oaxaca Public Safety Department spokesman Ignacio Villalobos Carranza said.

Villabos said that since officers were hired a year ago, they have helped detain drug dealers and thieves, and that the success of the program is drawing international attention.

“There have been people from England, from the Arab Emirates, from Germany, from Argentina who have approached us because they want to know how our system works,” Villalobos said.