Colombia’s Got Its Very Own Grope Police For Public Transport

As great as the Elite Group is, it's pretty shameful that we could kind of use our own grope police for public transport creeps over here, too...

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by Sophie Wilkinson |

If you’ve ever got on to a rush-hour tube in London, a crammed intercity train in those places outside of London (we totally know these places exist, promise), or even just a suburban bus at peak time, then you’ll know how perilously close strangers will get to you. Unfortunately, with the excuse of worn-down personal boundaries and the anonymity of journeys taken with strangers, some people will use this opportunity to grope, fondle and grab the people – nearly always women – they’ve managed to get armpit-to-ear with.

Women in Columbia totally know your struggles here. A recent survey found that 6 in 10 of them had been sexually harassed on buses in the capital, Bogota. One such woman is Linda Salgar, a 28-year-old who works in construction. She told The Columbia Daily Herald: ‘Sometimes you’ll be standing there and some man will be rubbing up behind you because it’s so crowded, but you know there’s more going on.’

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But the dodgy behaviour of leery passengers isn’t going unnoticed by authorities, as Columbian police are looking at ways of criminalising the creeps.

An elite squad – so elite it’s called the Elite Group – has been set up to tackle grabbing gropey strangers using the densely packed public transport as a breeding ground for their lusty wandering paws.

Made up of eight undercover agents – most of them young and female – the Elite Group get on the Transmileno bus system in Bogota and look for early warning signs so they can intervene when things get gross: ‘We look for people who are staring at women — looking at their private parts, their legs, their butts, and as soon as they touch we make our move,’ said Roxana, 25, a police officer who can’t give her surname in case it blows her cover.

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Lieutenant Lina Maria Rios, the public face of the group, says that members are picked for their legal knowledge, ability to gather knowledge and skills when dealing with young people. They’re all pretty good at defending themselves too. The idea isn't only to arrest those who get physical with unwilling participants, but to adjust people’s expectations of what happens when they grab at a woman ‘We want them to think that any pretty woman — or even an ordinary-looking woman — might be a cop. We want to generate inhibition.’

She added in a separate interview with the BBC: ‘It's too early to tell, but it seems the tide is turning,’ with the Group having made 17 arrests in the two weeks since the scheme was launched.

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Leydi, another member of the squad, told the BBC: ‘Many victims don't report the abuses because they believe it's a waste of time. We want to change that.’

It’s a total shame that this sort of thing has to exist, but we really think it could be a great idea over here. After all, it was only last week that British Transport Police said that reports of harassment on public transport had risen by 21 per cent. They said it's down to more reporting, but at the bare bones of it, it's because this shit is still going on. Maybe an Elite Group UK is exactly what's needed to criminalise people out of behaving like pricks.

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Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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