Baja officials to crack down on extortion

Dec. 1, 2007 at 2:49 PM
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TIJUANA, Mexico, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- A wave of violent carjackings and other assaults is impacting tourism in Baja California as a new administration there cracks down on corrupt police officers.

Officials said several major assaults have occurred along highways, surf destinations and major recreational fishing resorts, some lasting more than an hour and netting nearly $10,000 worth of bounty, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

The region is notorious for its corruption, with many visitors expecting police extortion. The latest crime wave, however, is increasingly aggressive with thieves operating with military-style precision.

The surge in crime is hampering the region's efforts to rebrand its tourist industry amid allegations that the former mayor of Tijuana, Jorge Hank Rhon, hired several corrupt or otherwise unqualified police officers, the Times said.

Some see the spike in violent extortion as a response to the pledge by newly sworn-in Tijuana Mayor Jorge Ramos to create a special tourist police force to ramp up security measures.

"Whatever it takes, it'll be done," said the new secretary of tourism, Oscar Escobedo Carignan.

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