In the fall of 2012, the governor of Oaxaca, Mexico, decided to kill two birds with one stone. He hired 20 people who could not hear or speak to monitor footage from the state capital's 230 surveillance cameras. The move didn't just provide to jobs to people who normally can't get them in Mexico. It also improved the city's surveillance system.The video footage is silent, and deaf monitors are both capable of reading lips and less easily distracted than officers who can hear by other things happening in the command center.
The deaf monitors aren't cops. They don't carry guns and aren't sworn officers. But according to a 2012 report from The New York Times, they have helped solve at least one murder, as well as alerted patrolmen to a variety of other crimes, some of them serious, many of them petty.
Oaxaca's system isn't all that different from the city surveillance programs being implemented across the U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia. The $56 million Center for Control, Command and Communication, where the deaf "Angels of Silence" work, is hooked up to Oaxaca's State Emergency Center, and allows for data sharing across multiple government agencies. By the end of this year, the city will have increased the number of cameras from 230 to over 400.
While the monitoring system isn't all that novel, the use of deaf surveillance monitors is. A spokesperson for Oaxaca's public safety department told the AP this week that "people from England, from the United Arab Emirates, from Germany, from Argentina have approached us because they want to know how our system works.”
Top image: The majority of Oaxaca's cameras are concentrated in the historic downtown, where a man was shot and killed while walking on a sidewalk in mid-October. REUTERS/Jorge Luis Plata.