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Violent Crime on Rise in Mexico City - 2002-12-03

In Mexico City, authorities have arrested one man suspected in the murder of an entire family, and are seeking another man believed to have been an accomplice. Violent crime continues to be the number one worry of the city's residents.

Mexico City police have in custody Orlando Magana Dorantes, who is charged in connection with the murder of seven people on November 15. Mexico City's chief prosecutor, Bernardo Batiz, says Mr. Magana has admitted his part in the crime and named his accomplice. Mr. Batiz says the accused man told investigators that a man named Jorge Esteban planned the crime. Police have made public a photograph of the fugitive who is being sought nationwide.

According to the account provided by Mr. Magana to authorities, the two men believed the Narezo Loyola family had a large amount of money in their house in the south part of Mexico City. In carrying out the robbery, however, their identities were revealed, so they killed all five family members and two servants. The two men gained 80,000 pesos, about $8,000, and an automobile.

The apprehension of a suspect in this crime has provided a rare victory for the city's law enforcement sector. Mexicans have become used to crimes that are never solved. But the shocking nature of the murders kept the story in the headlines, and put pressure on authorities to find the perpetrators.

In a weekend address, Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said his government is making progress in the fight against crime. He said he is making more public funds available for both social programs and crime-fighting. He said there will be a 12 percent increase in public security funds next year.

Not mentioned was the city government's recently announced $4 million plus contract with former New York City Mayor Rudolf Giuliani. In what many commentators here viewed as an act of desperation, the city had asked Mr. Giuliani and his team to study Mexico City's crime problem, and come up with recommendations. However, the former New York mayor canceled two previously scheduled visits, and it is not clear when he will be coming.

Local commentators say the crime problem here in Mexico City does not need any further study. They say the problems are already obvious. Public confidence in the police is so low that around 80 percent of crimes go unreported. Crime victims say active duty police officers are often in league with criminal gangs, who often include former police officers in their ranks. Police are poorly paid, making the equivalent of about $400 a month, and are poorly equipped. Policemen have died because the bullet-proof vests they wear turned out to be less than bullet proof. A study released recently by a prominent business group ranked Mexico City as one of the 10 most violent cities in the world.