There’s a new police force in Colombia, but it doesn’t target hardened criminals or drug cartels; it targets perverts.
The Elite Group was formed about three weeks ago, and has since caught 16 men groping women on the mass transit system in Bogota, Colombia’s capital city.
The new police force consists of seven women and four men, all of whom are undercover and dress as if they are regular commuters.
Bogota’s mass transit system is known for being hot and crowded, as it carries over 2 million people every day, creating an ideal environment for sexual harassment. The Elite Group aims to curb the rising levels of sexual harassment on buses and trains by doing one thing: instigating paranoia.
Lt. Lina Maria Rios, a member of the Elite Group, told the Miami Herald, “We want them to think that any pretty woman – or even an ordinary looking woman – might be a cop. We want to generate inhibition.”
Bogota is working hard to create a more female-friendly transit system, and the city even implemented women-only cars in the bus system a few months ago.
Sexual harassment on public transportation isn’t just a problem in Latin America, however; the nonprofit organization Stop the Street Harassment released a survey showing that 20 percent of women and 16 percent of men in the U.S. have been sexually harassed on public transportation as well.
Improving Bogota’s public transportation system is one of Mayor Gustavo Petro’s most important battles, as he strives to reduce the car traffic in the city as well as create a more pedestrian friendly zone.
The former president of Bogota’s Transmilenio system addressed one of the main problems with public transportation in Latin America, saying that it “has always been thought of as the last resort for those who don’t have a car. We have to make it a system so that even those who can afford a car will take public transportation.”
Striving for female friendly transportation
Bogota’s government hopes that The Elite Group will help make female commuters feel more comfortable using public transportation, since it is a well-known fact that groping on the bus has become a serious issue.
But how exactly do these trained and experienced police officials target sexual harassers?
“We look for people who are staring at women – looking at their private parts, their legs, their butts,” one of the anonymous officers said, “And as soon as they touch we make our move.”
Although groping and sexual harassment is not typically a jail-able offense in Colombia, many judges issue fines or detention to perpetrators.
The knowledge that an undercover cop may be on the bus may be enough to deter potential sexual harassers from groping women, making the commute in Bogota significantly more pleasant and appealing for its citizens.