Retio Uses Social Media to Fight Drug War Corruption in Mexico

While Google chairman Eric Schmidt was declaring technology to be the solution to Mexico’s drug violence, two kids from Mexico were already expanding coverage of their citizen-sourced crime reporting app to the entire country.

After visiting Juarez in July, Schmidt suggested Google’s intelligence capabilities could be used to facilitate information-sharing about cartel activity among police and citizens. A great idea—and one that Mario Romero and Jose Antonio Bolio, two friends from Merida, Yucatan, had already started implementing with their free app, Retio.

The application allows citizens to report shootings, murders and assaults as well as broken traffic lights, road blocks (illicit and otherwise), abandoned cars, police abuse and instances of corruption via Twitter. Contributors use the handle for the corresponding city, e.g. @RetioDF for Mexico, D.F., and tweet a description of the problem, sometimes with photo evidence.

An automatic system categorizes the report by type of issue, deletes spam and retweets from the feed. While anyone with a Twitter account can contribute information and access the website and search their city or state, only iPhone and iPad users can download the app. Users search by type of incident or by looking at a map – reports link to the GPS location when possible. Retio users can also map each others’ entries as posts almost always include cross streets.

“The original goal was to organize and optimize Twitter to avoid different problematic situations that people face every day in Mexican cities,” Romero says. “Users in different cities started using hashtags to inform themselves of these type of situations, but it wasn’t an ideal solution – our plan was to build a better tool to resolve this and we’ve been able to do that. But we’re still not done.” … FULL STORY