Organized by WhatsApp to loot stores in Mexico. Should the U.S. be concerned for the same?
Hundreds of WhatsApp and Facebook groups to incite mass shoplifting have emerged in Mexico since before the state of emergency was announced. Should we be concerned?
Once the barrier of a thousand infections was overcome, Mexico declared a state of health emergency on Monday because of COVID-19 and suspended non-essential activities in the country until April 30th -10 days longer than expected.
The move, while necessary and somewhat late, has left some 25 million citizens who live in the most precarious conditions orphaned of all sustenance, and also put the city's merchants in a tremendous predicament.
With the closure of shops, the thieves that proliferate a country with problems of violence and corruption have seen an opportunity.
Under names like "Looting Covid-19" and others alike, all sorts of WhatsApp and Facebook groups have sprung up to incite mass looting of establishments across the country to take advantage of the quarantine closure, according to El País.
"We have to break the fucking government, we are going to loot everything," one of the participants said in a voiceover. On Facebook, too, they ask each other, "How many are signing up for Iztapalapa? or "I already need a SmartTV". On the day of the public group's creation, it gained 300 members.
Although the Mexican police assure that the majority of them do not go beyond mere threats never materialize, they have increased surveillance in more than 500 stores and 700 neighborhoods of the capital. Last Thursday, they had also already arrested more than 20 people.
Most of these them, according to the Secretary of Public Security, are young people under 30 years old, and even under 18. But there have already been cases, such as the looting of a store in Ecatepec, a robbery hot spot in the region.
Don't be fooled. The perpetrators are also not a group of anarchist Robin Hoods, as might be thought from their anti-government harangues. "There is no ideological or political motivation, what they do is go and steal electronic devices, screens and cell phones. In other cases they have taken beer, cigarettes or wine," said the head of the state police, who continued to say the coronavirus quarantine is just an excuse.
Across the border, it seems that the criminals have taken the quarantine much more seriously. At least that's according to the police departments of cities like Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York, which have reported notable reductions in the number of complaints since the beginning of the quarantine.
"It's very quiet out there," Shawn Takeuchi, a San Diego Police Lieutenant, told CNS. Calls from citizen crime victims dropped 11% last week and the city is almost deserted. Los Angeles has also reported a 16% drop in burglaries, although more officers have been deployed on the streets.
The reasons may vary.
On the one hand, the confinement situation does not give opportunities for street robberies. Also, the increase in patrols dedicated to making sure nobody skips the quarantine may be another reason. But this is one of the few positive things about the coronavirus, even if the ravages of the pandemic are much greater.