EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Mexican authorities are investigating social media videos purporting to show uniformed police officers going into two Juarez homes and allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.
Security camera footage caught five uniformed officers wearing ski masks arriving at one of the homes in an unmarked four-door pickup, rushing inside and rummaging through a kitchen and a bedroom.
The camera shows an officer pulling out a handgun and ordering around a man in a red T-shirt. Later footage shows a small girl apparently running away from the officers, and one policeman grabbing a chair, stepping on it and disconnecting the security camera.
A Juarez newspaper is reporting the officers allegedly seized $600,000 at the home on April 16 but only turned in half of that amount to superiors. The newspaper reported the cash came from the recent sale of properties by the homeowners and identified the officers as members of the Chihuahua state police.
A spokesman for the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office on Friday told Border Report an investigation is ongoing based solely on the allegations being made on social media. The spokesman said the homeowners have not filed a formal complaint.
A second security camera video also circulated on social media shows two Juarez municipal police officers, also wearing ski masks, going into a home and disconnecting a security camera. Diario de Juarez, quoting the anonymous homeowners, reported that the officers took 55,000 pesos ($2,800) from the home.
A spokeswoman for the municipal police told reporters the video is being analyzed to verify the men are indeed city officers. If so, they will be investigated by the Internal Affairs Department, she said.
Last June, the AG’s Office ordered the arrest of nine state police officers on charges of theft and abuse of authority after allegedly detaining the son of a drug trafficker, beating him and stealing thousands of dollars from his father. The same group of officers was suspected in the murder of an alleged drug dealer earlier as well.
Why keep $600,000 laying around in your home?
Victor M. Manjarrez Jr. teaches a criminal justice class at the University of Texas at El Paso focusing on the Mexican border.
He has many students from Juarez who often share with him tales of government corruption, so to him it’s no surprise to hear the allegations against the Chihuahua cops. The game-changer, though, is social media.
“When you see that, people are going to talk about it,” he said.
Manjarrez said there’s a long history of police corruption associated with the widespread drug trade on the Mexican border. That became most evident during the bloody drug wars of the late 2000s; the president of Mexico had to send troops to take over law-enforcement in many cities because he did not trust the police, said Manjarrez, who is also the associate director for UTEP’s Center for Law & Human Behavior.
He said low law-enforcement salaries — a municipal police officers in Juarez, for instance, get paid around $400 a month — and tempting offers from drug traffickers put a lot of pressure on the officers to “go over to the dark side.” Add to that the ample drug money that makes Juarez a “target rich” environment and it’s not hard to fathom incidents like the one being alleged.
Manjarrez said another obvious question is why would any law-abiding citizen have $600,000 laying around in his home.
“Why would anyone do it? Most of us would like to secure such a large amount and put that in the bank,” he said. “Is it mistrust in the banking system because large cash deposits are red-flagged? When I heard about the $600,000, a lot of bells went off. I’ve never known of anyone with a legitimate business keeping $600,000 at home..”