'Vigilante Taxi Drivers' Save Lives With Mobile Phones, GPS and Web

Nearly 3,500 taxi drivers use their mobile phones to alert the Citizen Monitoring System.

by / May 7, 2012

The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), a New York-based think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community, named the Vigilante Taxi Driver (Taxistas Vigilantes) Program of the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico as the recipient of its 2012 Founders Award.

The City of Tuxtla Gutiérrez (population 555,000) launched the Vigilante Taxi Driver program to involve citizens in improving public safety and quality of life in this community, located in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Prior to the development of the program, crime was rampant in Tuxtla Gutiérrez and the city was challenged to maintain and upgrade its infrastructure.

The service is provided through the Vigilante Citizen Monitoring System, which consists of an integrated platform that combines the use of cell phones for taxi drivers with multimedia and GPS, and a Web platform that receives and plots the information and makes it available to city agencies responsible for public safety, utilities and maintenance. 

Nearly 3,500 taxi drivers between the ages of 19 and 80 use their mobile phones to alert the Citizen Monitoring System about accidents, potholes, downed street lights and leaking water mains, as well as crimes in progress. The system integrates 46 municipal departments and agencies at two levels of government.

Commenting on the award, Tuxtla Gutiérrez mayor Felipe de Jesus Pastrana Granda said, “The program has demonstrated its effectiveness and is recognized as part of our Intelligent Community initiatives. It encourages public participation and I am proud to say that it is evidence of the benefits of technology and innovation for citizens.  We look forward to the events in New York."

Since the program was initiated, drivers have reported on nearly 2,500 car accidents, 146 stolen vehicles (of which 80 percent were recovered), and 30 illegal bars, which have since been closed. Vigilante Taxi Drivers have identified counterfeiters of license plates and official documents, assisted in dismantling kidnapping and car-theft gangs, and saved the lives of more than 130 people injured in accidents or crimes.

“The Tuxtla Gutiérrez program represents a near-perfect blend of technology and citizen participation,” said ICF co-founder Robert Bell, who saw a presentation on the application during a 2011 visit to Mexico. “It is the essence of ordinary technology used to achieve a high level of innovation. It relies on the mobile phone -- a simple technology -- to engage citizens in improving their community.”

For his part, Governor of the State of Chiapas, Juan Sabines Guerrero, added, "The Taxi Driver Vigilante program is one of the most successful public participation programs in Mexico. It shows the importance of how technology can contribute to the development of cities, and allows citizens to have the tools to be harbingers of change in their community."

The award will be presented during the  Intelligent Communities of the World Alumni Dinner on 6 June at Manhattan’s Harmonie Club. The event will be hosted by Silicon Valley’s anyCOMM Corp. The event takes place on the opening day of ICF’s annual Summit in New York. The invitation-only Summit is organized by ICF and hosted by the Polytechnic Institute of New York University at its Brooklyn Metrotech Campus. The Summit features the participation of the world’s Top Seven Intelligent Communities, each of whom tell their story of success on 7 June.

At Issue: Could the Taxi Vigilante program be replicated in the U.S.?