Citizen insecurity has been a persistent challenge in Villa Maria del Triunfo, where gang activity, drug trafficking, robberies, assaults, and prostitution are rife. These acts of violence are also linked to larger, pervasive social problems such as family violence and unemployment. In order to improve the safety of the city, reformers began a coordinated effort between police, neighborhood volunteers, and civil society organizations called the Agreement Table. The Table is an anti-crime project based on local committees of citizen security. These committees, in turn, organize patrols for their own neighborhoods. Reformers have also been able to pool resources to install alarm systems by urban block. The system has the dual goal of, first, reducing acts of violence in the district, and second, improving relations between the general population and the authorities in charge of keeping the peace in the municipality.
Project innovators have divided the city into seven zones, each of which receives resources to police their own streets. The results of the effort have already been substantial, with a decline in gang numbers from 120 in the year 2000 to 56 in 2005; 240 former gang members have been reintegrated into the community of Villa Maria del Triunfo. Thus far, organizers have selected and deployed over 1,600 community security representatives and more than 1,300 neighbors participate.
The project has had several benefits, including the mutual confidence growing between community members and local authorities. Though its public relations remain somewhat troubled, the National Police’s image has also improved in the community, as it has encouraged local activism in the area of security maintenance. In addition, given that much of the initiative for this project has arisen from civil society groups, the Agreement Table has encouraged development of new local leadership, and women’s activism. It has also provided a model of civil participation, demonstrating the improved service delivery is possible in public sector partnerships with civil society.