Femicides, domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual crimes are investigated by the Policewomen’s Criminal Investigation Model Unit of the state of Morelos, a 26-member squad launched in November.
“The main goal is to investigate and pursue crimes against women and in this way, improve their quality of life,” Morelos State Attorney General Rodrigo Dorantes Salgado said.
Of Morelos’ 1,897,393 residents, 951,477 are women, of who 147,923 have suffered emotional violence, 84,941 economic violence, 31,938 physical violence and 15,572 sexual violence, according to the 2013 National Survey on the Dynamics of Domestic Relationships.
“There are many women who suffer family violence in a systematic way and are sexually, emotionally and physically abused but are too frightened to denounce it,” Rosalía Santiago Moya, the commander of the Policewomen’s Criminal Investigation Model Unit, said.
Between 2012 and 2013, 122 femicides were reported in Morelos, according to the Independent Commission on Human Rights, a local NGO.
The policewomen have been trained in gender matters, victim assistance, psychological help, tactics and operations, weapons handling and self-defense.
Since November, they have investigated 10 cases and have arrested a father for allegedly raping his daughter in December of 2013 in the municipality of Tepoztlán.
The suspect was arrested four days after the child’s mother filed a complaint. His case is pending trial.
The unit ensures victims are treated with dignity by judicial authorities, according to María Emilia Montejano Hilton, an expert in gender equality matters at Panamericana University in Mexico City.
“For women who are the victims of crime, this unit provides hope that they will receive better service and have greater access to justice,” she added.
The biggest problem with these types of cases is authorities aren’t trained to deal with them, according to Ximena Andión, a member of the Equis NGO: Justicia para las Mujeres.
“Victims suffer from the impunity and institutional violence of the authorities, who don’t have protocols for expert, police and ministerial investigations with perspectives regarding gender and human rights,” she said.
With the unit, Morelos’ authorities seek to offer greater assurances to victims and encourage them to report crimes.
“[We want to] break that circle of fear and discrimination,” Santiago Moya said. “[We want to] provide women with the confidence and security so they know they are protected and their lives are no longer in danger and they can proceed with their accusation.”
The unit also wants to change the public’s perception of the police, according to Moya.
“The police officers’ image is they are authoritarian and don’t know how or don’t want to assist victims because they are women,” Montejano Hilton said.
The unit uses methods that break police stereotypes, according to Morelos Gov. Graco Ramírez.
“Criminal investigation doesn’t require physical strength, cowboy boots and buckles,” he said. “That image is simply there to act tough and intimidate.”
The unit stresses sensitivity and communication with all sides during an investigation.
“The fact that a man assists female victims creates a psychological barrier, but if a woman provides assistance a greater emotional rapport is created,” Marlene Díaz Salinas, a 30-year-old unit member, said.
This results in greater chances for the suspect to be brought to justice.
“A detailed description of the events is essential to set the guidelines for the investigation and expedite the process of arresting and sentencing the accused,” Díaz added.
The unit’s actions also send a direct message regarding women in law enforcement.
“It’s a source of pride and satisfaction to belong to this group of women, which at the same time develops me personally and is an example for my family,” said Macaria Elena Aguirre Reyes, a 38-year-old unit member. “Our role as police officers breaks the myth that women can’t do these kinds of jobs. We are prepared and that shows that women are strong and can do anything.”