Avocops to the rescue

mexican avocado cops
Credit: photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT via getty images

Tancítaro, a city Mexican state of Michoacán, basically runs on avocados. Nearly 45 percent of the world’s avocados come from Mexico, and many of them come from Tancítaro. Avocado producers’ bountiful and popular crops have made them rich, but also targets of avocado-related crime. To combat violence and theft against avocado producers, community members have banded together to act as avocado police.

The avocado police, many of whom grow avocados when they’re not on patrol, keep watch over Tancítaro, its people, and its avocados. According to BBC News, the avocado force, who carry guns and wear full body armor, are partially funded by a percentage of avocado producers’ earnings—they all contribute a bit of their profits to ensure the safety of their city.

"The self-defence groups freed the municipality from organized crime,” José Hugo Sánchez Mendoza, the head of CUSEPT (the Spanish abbreviation for Tancítaro Public Security Force) told BBC News, referring to the country’s trouble with drug cartel-related violence. “Then, in conjunction with the government, we worked with the avocado producers to recruit police," said Mendoza. The avocado police roam through the city in addition to producers’ farms, where they walk through the plants in order to prevent intruders.

In the past, many avocado producers—who have become quite wealthy through their work—have been kidnapped or extorted by criminals. One producer, Chema Flores, says his 16-year-old son was kidnapped once, and his captors wanted $1 million in exchange for his release. Flores, who has also been kidnapped before, now has permission to carry a gun, and employs full-time armed bodyguards for him and his son.

Another farmer, Lorena Flores (unrelated to Chema), was frustrated with regular run-ins with criminals, and now works on the force 40 hours per week. Flores spends the rest of her time on her farm, and told BBC News she thinks the city is much safer thanks to the avocado force. All the avocado producers and police who spoke with BBC News were happy to report that since the force has been in full swing, there have been no kidnappings or blackmail attempts.