Americans Warned of Crime Spike in Mexico

    Many UCSD students travel to Tijuana to visit clubs such as Coko Bongo, despite a recent advisory from the U.S. consulate in Tijuana that kidnappings of American citizens visiting Mexico are on the rise. (Will Parson/Guardian File)

    Those who take frequent trips to Mexico
    should be aware that criminal activity around the border has increased
    dramatically over the past year, according to a recent advisory from the U.S.
    consulate in Tijuana.

    The consulate issued a “warden message” last month to warn
    all American travelers of the increase in the crime rate along the border.
    There were 22 kidnappings of American citizens this past year, twice the number
    of kidnapping cases in 2006.

    Though some of the victims were recovered, others were
    physically abused and even killed. In several cases, ransom demands were also
    made.

    There is no apparent pattern to the kidnappings, nor are all
    kidnappings conducted by the same criminal group, according to a statement from
    the FBI Border Liaison Office in San Diego.

    Border Liaison Office Supervisor Eric Drickersen said in the
    statement that there were few cases in which the target was randomly selected.

    Charles Smith, a public affairs spokesman for the consulate,
    said that the victims tend not to be typical tourists, but businesspeople with
    dual citizenship.

    Responding to the rise in violent criminal activity,
    security around the border has increased since the beginning of the year. For
    example, a new law enacted in January requires that travelers present a birth
    certificate or passport when crossing the border.

    The advisory encourages that people take precautions when
    traveling in unfamiliar territory such as being aware of suspicious persons and
    activity and letting others know their travel plans ahead of time.

    “Our message doesn’t tell people not to come here,” Smith
    said. “We simply tell people to use caution when they do come here. Don’t go
    into unknown areas. Basically, use the same common sense you would use in any
    given city in the U.S.

    Although the kidnapping cases mostly involve older persons
    with citizenship in both the United States
    and Mexico,
    people not fitting into the target demographic should also be careful, Smith
    said.

    Revelle College
    sophomore Alan Chin has gone clubbing in Tijuana
    a handful of times in the past year. He admits that Tijuana
    is not the safest of destinations, particularly for females who travel in the
    group.

    “I’m afraid that if I wasn’t around, that my girlfriend may
    be raped or something else,” Chin said.

    Chin is not the only UCSD student with reservations about
    traveling across the border since the news of increased violent activity.

    “In January, I went to Tijuana
    for my birthday, even though people told me not to go because there had been
    shootings recently,” Earl Warren
    College
    sophomore Annie Liou said.
    “But my friends and I went anyway because we had already bought the tickets,
    and because I went in a group it was more ok.”

    Liou said in addition to traveling in a group, she and her friends
    take other precautions to ensure their personal safety.

    “No one walks to the clubs,” she said. “They take the taxis
    because people know that it’s dirty and unsafe in Tijuana.
    We try to stay in the area where students should be going.”

    Club owner and promoter “Hollywood Ray” specializes in
    transportation to and around Tijuana.
    As the owner of the popular Coko Bongo club, Ray operates a successful business
    driving students into Mexico.
    Before the implementation of the new passport law, up to 3,000 students headed
    down to Tijuana on a given weekend.

    Ray said that the safety of his customers is his primary
    concern.

    “Nothing’s going to happen to them,” he said. “If they stay
    at the club, they’ll be fine. If they walk around in Tijuana,
    like anywhere, you’re just asking for trouble.”

    Ray said he was not particularly concerned about the
    increase in kidnappings negatively impacting his clientele.

    “The last thing criminals are doing is kidnapping students,
    because they are worthless to them,” Ray said. “If they’re going to kidnap
    anyone, it’s going to be a rich Mexican citizen.”

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