The Angels of Silence
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) is a standard method of monitoring downtown areas and tourist attractions across most, if not all, major cities around the world. It may however be surprising to know that Oaxaca runs a CCTV program that draws officials from different cities around the world in order to learn more. The difference? People monitoring CCTV footage in Oaxaca can’t hear or speak.
Oaxaca de Juarez is not a big city – it has about 265,000 people in total. Each day many people commute from the surrounding communities into the diamond-shaped central city area bordered by the Periférico in order to work and sell produce, swelling the population of the central city area.
Oaxaca is a gorgeous colonial city and each day many tourists are also out and about, marveling at the churches, walking down the cobble-stoned roads, bartering in markets and sampling the delicious foods on offer.
Watching over everyone as they go about their daily tasks is a group called the Angels of Silence.
According to a report from The New York Times, the Angels of Silence have helped solve at least one murder, as well as alerted police to many other crimes from violence to drug deals and robberies.
The scheme came about in 2012, when the governor of Oaxaca decided to recruit deaf people to watch the CCTV footage in real time. As the cameras do not capture sound with the picture, being able to interpret actions and body language is a highly desirable skill.
When the Angels notice something suspicious, they advise their interpreters who then talk to police dispatchers to route police to the location.
“They allow us to notice situations that maybe a person who doesn’t have that disability wouldn’t notice. They read lips and can perceive suspicious movements in people,” Cynthia Zepeda, director of Oaxaca state’s emergency services said.
The scheme has been so successful in Oaxaca that the Oaxacan government is currently making plans to duplicate it in other popular cities such as Puerto Escondido and Huatulco on the coast. More info here
So when you are out walking around Oaxaca and if you see a CCTV camera on top of a building, you can be sure that the Angels are also watching out for you.