Thread: Baja theft....
11-22-2007, 07:34 PM #1
I have had either really great experiences or the worst nightmares going into or coming out of Baja...even with written letters of endorsement from the government ensuring safe passage to work water safety and rescues and to train there, still had to pay, let gear be stolen in front of me, and harassed. I have a love - hate - fear relationship with our neighboring country. One year we had a Yamaha gig in Cabo, the semi got 1/2 way down and had to pay $10K in bribes, had to get $20K more wired to make it down...they knew the truck was coming. What I learned is if I disabled the ATV's and watercraft and they couldn't start them, they wouldn't take them. But everything else was game. Not good memories unfortunately.....this story doesn't shock me at all.
Race crewman reports latest Baja robbery
By Anna Cearley and Bill Center
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS
November 22, 2007
The violent robbery of an American family in Baja California early Monday morning is adding to concerns about safety south of the border.
The latest attack began about 1 a.m. when Chris Hall, his wife, Debra, and their 16-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter where driving home to El Cajon from the SCORE Baja 1000 off-road auto race, which ended Friday in Cabo San Lucas.
Hall said their 2007 Ford F-250 was pulled over by a black car with flashing red and blue lights and a siren as they traveled on the coastal road just south of the Playas de Tijuana toll booth. A second car blocked the path in front of them.
Hall, 42, is a truck driver and crewman who supports off-road racers. He was pulling an empty car trailer after assisting the race team of Andy McMillin, whose family is one of San Diego County's biggest home developers. The trailer was identified with McMillin's race insignia.
“I think they knew what they were doing,” Hall said of the assailants. “If I had been a McMillin, I think they would have kidnapped me.”
The assailants took the wheel of the Halls' truck, held the family at gunpoint for two hours, and then released them at a secluded spot on a mountain, Hall said.
The men stole the truck and all of the family's belongings, Hall said. It took the Halls more than an hour to walk down the mountain and find help. Mexican police took them immediately to the border.
The Halls filed a report yesterday with Mexican authorities. Chris Hall estimated the family's personal loss at $70,000. “But we're alive and I didn't think we were going to be . . . I'm counting my blessings.”
The attack was the latest in a series that has put frequent Baja travelers on edge.
Stories of at least six armed assaults have been shared by travelers through the Internet and by word of mouth. Some, but not all, of the cases have been determined by authorities as credible.
One widely publicized attack Aug. 31 involved a group of North County surfers who were stopped by a convoy of armed men who used flashing lights to pull them over on the road between the San Ysidro border crossing and Playas de Tijuana.
The surfers were forced out of their vehicles at gunpoint, and one was ordered to kneel and crawl as if he were going to be executed. The gunmen took the surfers' two trucks and other equipment.
In another publicized case, Pat Weber of Encinitas and his girlfriend were robbed Oct. 23 by two men wearing military clothing and ski masks at Cuatro Casas, a surfing spot about 200 miles south of the border. The assailants shot at his motor home and sexually assaulted his girlfriend before stealing $10,000 worth of computers, video cameras and other gear.
Baja California tourism officials didn't return phone calls yesterday asking about Monday's attack. But last month officials with the state attorney general's office in Baja California said they were working with other agencies to beef up patrols along the roads tourists often use to get to and from the border.
They urged victims to report such crimes immediately, but some victims have been afraid of file reports because they don't trust Mexican law enforcement officers.
Three people recently contacted The San Diego Union-Tribune to report being robbed by Tijuana police officers near the San Ysidro border crossing over the past six weeks.
Their complaints come amid speculation in the Mexican media that extortion and other misdeeds by police have increased recently because of an anticipated crackdown once Tijuana's new mayor, Jorge Ramos, takes office Dec. 1.
Authorities are unsure whether the latest accounts about attacks against tourists reflect an increase in attacks or that more people are sharing their stories with reporters or on Internet sites.
Robert Fishman, director of administration for the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego, said he was robbed of more than $500 in cash by a group of Mexican police officers Oct. 13 after leaving a Caliente sports gaming site. He said the officers stopped him on a dark section of the pedestrian bridge that leads to the San Ysidro border crossing around 10 p.m. and searched his wallet and pockets. After they let him go, he realized the money was missing.
Fishman filed a report with the San Diego Police Department, which forwards the information to the U.S. Consulate in Mexico. However, he said the case appeared stymied because he couldn't see the officers' faces.
Fishman said he does not plan to go back to Baja California.
Hall is more adamant.
“I'm the person who has always dispelled the rumors about being hassled in Baja California,” he said. “I have always loved the country and the people. . . . Before this year, we had never had a problem, only great memories. But I'm never going back.”
11-25-2007, 11:42 AM #2
Shawn. I FULLY understand. After getting my Yukon smashed into by a quad in San Felipe, and having to BRIBE my way out of town, I pretty much wrote off any more Baja trips.
11-25-2007, 06:33 PM #3
11-25-2007, 07:52 PM #4
To be perfectly honest here...the govt's not friendly...the cops are corrupt...crime and criminals run rampant on the main routes from the US...why would anyone want to go to mexico?
Seriously...what exactly is the draw?
11-25-2007, 09:16 PM #5
- Join Date
- Nov 2007
- Odessa, TX
11-27-2007, 03:15 AM #6
The recent race rig theft from the Baja 1,000 of the family at gunpoint, last week who had been traveling safely for 20 years, brought back bad memories for me, those folks lost $70K in gear, and the family was terrorized at gunpoint and dropped on a mountain far away from help. Me and an ex boyfriend went down to Quatro Casas to surf on vacation, the week after we went friends of ours went on our referral, their girlfriend was raped, the boyfriend shot in the leg for trying to protect her. The week prior to that at Rosarita beach a friend of ours who is a paramedic was attacked while towel changing near his truck after surfing..they cut his face with a broken beer bottle, which required surgery.
I'm pretty nervous myself traveling there. I get sick and tired of the bribes I pay and the 'guns and drugs' request, which is so bogus.
There are certainly problems in America, but at least I know my insurance policy, have law enforcement I can request help from and medical facilities that will care for me or mine. I do love the continent and it's people but desperate times create desperate conditions and of course Americans will be targeted for having more. And yes I will be traveling to Mexico next month to train towsurfers on the mainland in a beautiful place far away from where I am typing this..., so no I'm not boycotting, but am I concerned? Yes I am.
Anyhow this subject is increasingly getting more attention.
Be careful if you travel south of the border. Shawn
U.S. renews warnings to Baja travelers
By: ADAM KAYE - Staff Writer
Encinitas man reports robbery, assault
Driving into Baja California may be losing its appeal for some North County travelers, as U.S. government advisories, Internet chatter and hand-wringing around local surf shops warn of increased trouble for American motorists in northern Mexico.
Late last month, the U.S. Department of State warned the public about narcotics-related violence in Baja California and other Mexican states.
On Wednesday, an official from the U.S. consulate's office in Tijuana said that within the last four months American travelers have reported four separate incidents of armed robberies and assault. Two of the reports were lodged by surfers.
Many crimes victimizing Americans are not reported to the consulate, however, as tourists hurry up to the border to put bad experiences behind them, consular spokesman Charles Smith said.
Thus, "official" figures may be a fraction of the whole problem.
Reports of violence
In one case reported to the consulate, an Encinitas surfer said he was attacked with his girlfriend during a camping trip Oct. 23.
Pat Weber said he is a veteran Baja traveler but will never return to the peninsula after he and his girlfriend were held at gunpoint during a robbery on a remote coastal bluff. His girlfriend was assaulted during the ordeal, Weber said.
A spokesman with the attorney general's office in Baja California said last week that no arrests had been made and that authorities were continuing to investigate Weber's case.
Meanwhile, Weber's story has spread on travel Web sites, the online edition of Surfer magazine and through a news segment on CNN.
In the latest incident of reported violence, an El Cajon family was robbed at gunpoint last week just outside Tijuana as they drove home from an off-road race in Cabo San Lucas.
Chris Hall, a member of racer Andy McMillin's crew, was driving his family home when two cars of armed robbers forced them to pull over and stole their truck and other belongings, said Matt Martelli, a spokesman for McMillin.
Attempts to reach Hall were unsuccessful Friday.
Martelli said he didn't know all of the details of the robbery, but added that Hall is "pretty shaken up about it and not really talking to anyone."
Mexican officials say incidents are few
Although some surfers say their days of camping at the beaches of Baja are over, an official with the Mexican government said Wednesday that recently reported crimes against Americans are isolated incidents.
Edgar Lopez, a spokesman for Baja California's secretary of public safety, said coordinated efforts among local, state and federal law enforcement officers provide vigilance throughout the entire state.
"The surfer," Lopez said, referring to Weber, "it's not very frequent that we have these crimes on foreigners. The problem is not growing."
'Armed guys with ski masks'
The consulate's office in Tijuana isn't so sure. U.S. officials are investigating whether paramilitary-styled bandits are specifically targeting Americans in Baja California, Smith said.
In addition to Weber's case, the consulate received reports recently that two American surfers were pulled over near the border by an automobile with flashing lights that was masquerading as a police car.
"Next thing they knew there were these armed guys with ski masks pulling them out of their cars and robbing them of everything," Smith said. "We're still establishing whether or not this is a trend."
Regardless, Weber said the bandits took $10,000 worth of cash and electronic equipment.
Weber, owner of the Encinitas-based San Diego Surfing Academy, said he has surfed in Mexico for years and has dealt with petty crimes and traffic cops demanding bribes.
"I've had all those normal experiences and I still return time and time again," Weber said. "But I draw the line at armed robbery and sexual assault."
Harassing U.S. citizens
As one of his final acts in Mexico, Weber said, he reported the crime to authorities.
Smith, of the consulate's office, said last month's announcement renewed one that the U.S. ambassador to Mexico first issued nine months ago. The latest announcement is scheduled to expire April 15.
The announcement reports dozens of cases of U.S. citizens being kidnapped in Mexico in recent years.
"No one can be considered immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors," the announcement states. "Criminals have been known to follow and harass U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles, particularly in border areas including ... Tijuana."
U.S. citizens should restrict their stays to well-known tourist destinations and travel only by day on main roads, the announcement states, and "should exercise caution when in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times."
At least one tour operator in Baja California said reports of crimes on the peninsula are overblown.
"It really upsets me," said Carol Kramer of Discover Baja.
San Diego has crime, too
She said newspapers are chock-full of crime stories in San Diego, but that tourism to that city continues nonetheless.
"We're hearing people who are worried," Kramer said. "What we're telling them is you never drive at night, take normal precautions, caravan and don't camp alone."
On the Internet, unverified reports by surfers of armed robberies in Baja California have popped up on surfing and travel Web sites.
"The general feeling is yeah, at least since Labor Day, it's gone beyond the (Tijuana) cop shakedown for $40," said Scott Bass, online editor at large for Surfer Magazine. "These guys are firing guns and sexually assaulting girls."
Dozens of comments are attached to a story by Bass about Weber's ordeal. A number of them describe robberies and other crimes of which bloggers say they were victims.
The chatter at some area surf shops is that surfers who would have camped in Mexico now are exploring other options.
"People are definitely rethinking their plans," said Witt Rowlett, owner of Carlsbad Pipelines. "There's very definitely been a negative connotation about driving down to Baja to surf."
At Encinitas Surfboards, manager Doug Jopes said he has heard similar concerns.
"We don't run tours out of here," Jopes said, "but at the moment I wouldn't encourage anyone to be driving in Baja at night whatsoever."
Contact staff writer Adam Kaye at (760) 901-4074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments On This Story
Note: Comments reflect the views of readers and not necessarily those of the North County Times or its staff.
You finally run the story!![-] wrote on Nov 25, 2007 9:27 PM:Stay out of Mexico! My son and his girlfriend lost their car and everything they had last weekend. They had gone down for lobster in Puerto Nuevo and were robbed of everything they had when they left the restaurant. They had to hitch a ride with another San Diego couple who took them directly to the border. Never again!! Fortunately they are alive and will now go for lobster dinners only on this side of the border!! Oh yeah, they had guns put to their heads!! Great place!!
Joe[-] wrote on Nov 25, 2007 9:29 PM:Nobody should go to mexico, it is not safe
Border agents report[-] wrote on Nov 25, 2007 9:30 PM:The agents at the border said they usually get about 20 reports of tourists being robbed everyday! It is so routine they think nothing of it and don't even let the victims use the restroom or phones in the offices. They send them over to the McDonalds.
GFN[-] wrote on Nov 25, 2007 9:36 PM:I will never, EVER, take my family there again!
You are entering a third world country when you enter Mexico[-] wrote on Nov 25, 2007 10:04 PM:I stopped going many years ago I learned of US citizens getting involved in traffic accidents and then not having any rights. In one case a US citizen died because he was not allowed to get to US hospitals. The criminals have the guns while everyone else is left defenseless. I don't have to experience an incident to realize if it can happen to someone else, it can happen to me and my loved ones.
What a surprise![-] wrote on Nov 25, 2007 10:05 PM:Mr Edgar Lopez its time to pull your head out of the ground and acknowledge there is a problem. Unless of course you too are on the take and look the other way. Nice "precautions" dont drive at night, caravan, dont camp alone? Amazing, are these suggestions for travelling in Iraq or in a country that's 15 minutes away? What a joke. I for one am done spending my money in that run-down third world dump!!!
What a joke Mr. Lopez![-] wrote on Nov 25, 2007 10:55 PM:The Mexican secretary for public safety,Mr. Lopez, says crimes against foreigners are infrequent;however the US Ambassador in TJ states: "No one can be considered immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors," the announcement states. "Criminals have been known to follow and harass U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles, particularly in border areas including ... Tijuana." I think I'll believe the US officials rather than the person who wants to encourage tourism with my families well being!I am forever saying out of Mexico!
Gary[-] wrote on Nov 25, 2007 11:21 PM:It is unsafe for any American to go to mexico. Beside you don't need to. Everything they have is already up here. May I recommend Puerto Escondido, or Cabo San Marcos.
I used to go regularly...[-] wrote on Nov 25, 2007 11:24 PM:...but no more! I was pulled over for "speeding" shortly after crossing the border. The cops planted marijuana in the ashtray of the car and threatened to take me and my 2 surfing buddies to jail. Instead they escorted us to the nearest ATM and waited outside as my 2 friends withdrew $300 each. The cops waited in their police car in front of the bank, took the bribe through their window, and then left us lost in the middle of TJ. It's not worth it anymore!!
Paco[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 1:35 AM:Boycott Mexico! Anyone who goes to that Third World toilet of a country is nuts.
Randy[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 3:05 AM:Mexico is making great strides towards becoming a bond fide 3rd world country!
DMB[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 3:27 AM:I am personally tired of US citizens being abused and unprotected by mexican law enforcement(if we can even call them that). I was pulled over in Mexico and robbed of my cell phone, money and other belongings by Police down there and my advice for all americans or any tourist is not to go to Mexico and spend or lose you hard earned money or belongings. Find another place where they actually appreciate you patronage.
Skip[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 4:23 AM:I used to love going to visit Mexico. Never again. Just read some of the horror stories about Nuevo Laredo. We never have been good neighbors with mexico. And this is the country that El President Bush want's to form the North American Union with. Mexico is the most corrupt country. All I can say is never again.
This is.[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 4:33 AM:Only the beginning. There will be a full scale revolt in Mex within 4 years. Too many illegals forced to go back, you see.
Hobeast[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 5:38 AM:Baja is CrUnK!
Typical[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 5:47 AM:Nothing changes.
Karl[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 6:19 AM:I quit going many years ago when the traffic accident mentioned above happened. the guys name was Kraft and he was from Valley Center. I think anyone going to Mexico is either nuts or in denial about the dangers.
Legal[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 6:25 AM:When you travel to a Third World country, expect the worst. Better yet, don't go there. Whether at home in the U.S. or abroad, the American is an opportune target of exploitation.
Annie C.[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 6:34 AM:My family has traveled together to Puerto Nuevo for over 25 years. We have also traveled all over the world. Spending this Thanksgiving with our friends who run a hotel there, we discussed the current events in tourism. We discussed how Americans coming to Mexico drink tequila and act in manners they would never act at home. But even they are upset about these recent happenings. Broad daylight crimes. Men in masks? Robbers dressed like cops! Attacking surfers! Mr. Weber is definitely someone who knows how to travel safely through Mexico. I understand why he would not want to return. I have trust in most of the people in Mexico. We have found most destinations to be 99% full of wonderful people and there is always someone who wants to destroy our faith in human nature. While I would like to say I would never go to Mexico again. I will. Just like I will never let the terrorists keep me off an airplane. But I will not be taking the same precautions. I will add even more. Gone are the days I will head their alone like I used to do. I will stay at a reputable hotel ... Stay in the hotel after dark and walk to PN for Lobster and take a taxi if you must go dancing somewhere. Stay on the toll roads and don't stop for any police cars until you get to a toll booth. They are aware of why you will not stop. The owners of this hotel care about your safety. And the tourism industry down there is very concerned as they love their work and they care about your safety. Heck they care about their own. But when ever something like this happens I try and put it in perspective. How safe is it in San Diego, LA, NYC, Washington DC if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time? Everyday bad things like this happen all over the world. Crimes like this happen every day in the States. It is a sad statement of the times. Or is it. I grew up on the east coast and often heard and saw people who were connected to the Italian and Irish mafias. So - I am so sad to learn of these recent events. What surf spots are these crimes happening? I would like to know more since my husband goes surfing each time we are there! Next time the surf board might have to stay home until this stuff stops. What time of day did those kids get their car stolen from Puerto Nuevo? That one is incredible - there are police officers all over town.
Andrew[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 6:37 AM:It is happening, and has been for a while. I was also surfing at coastal bluff when my car was blocked in by three men with a gun in a red 2wd Toyota pick up truck w/CA plates. Sound familiar? One guy couldn't have been more than 17, and they were pretending to be Mexican police. I have not been back since, and that was 15 years ago. If you must go, go with a large posse.
Sickofit[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 6:40 AM:"Our friendly neighbors to the south". There is no reason to go to that third world country.
Kate[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 7:09 AM:ALL American tourist should stay out of Baja, and all of Mexico. Since their corrupt government does nothing to protect us, we should not spend a dime down there. See how fast something would be done if our $$ stopped pouring in!
Greg in Oceanside[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 7:14 AM:Crime and corruption is rampant in Mexico and the Mexican consulate denies there's any problems. The Mexican government is a total joke and law enforcement is a farce. Do you think these sorts of crimes could be perpetrated here in the US? These 'pull-over' robberies where vehicles and possessions are taken by banditos, or rogue cops is nothing new and happens all the time especially on lonely stretches of highway in the northern states. This brings up a deeper, more comprehensive reason why we should be very cautious in accepting immigrants from Mexico. Why? Because of the social mores and philosophical differences between our two countries. Word to the wise: STAY OUT OF MEXICO. There are plenty of good, safe places to visit (and surf) here in the US.
Manuel[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 7:22 AM:Think about it. You've got people willing to die to get out of Mexico. Why go there? The place is corrupt. Bottom line? There you are guilty until proven innocent.
Dog Lady[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 7:22 AM:My husband was robbed by three men at gun point down there that was the worst thing that's happened to him .....until....after 7 months in Iraq where 4 ceiling tiles fell on him after a bomb blast. Our last visit to Mexico was 2 years ago this month.......we won't be going back unless WE can arm ourselves!
Scott[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 7:26 AM:I haven't been in years and never had any intention of going back. Seriously...the place isn't even safe for a lot of Mexicans. Why would it be safe for Americans?
Robert24[-] wrote on Nov 26, 2007 7:30 AM:It really is time to boycott Mexico. They send their unwanted here illegally, under the guise of looking for work, they do not recognize or respect our laws, they send huge waves of drugs across the border, and now blatant robbing and raping with no regard or consequence. I quit going to Mexico many years ago, and have absolutely no desire to ever go back. Sad, when it is a land of such gracious people (for the most part) and such natural beauty and resources. Pray that not only does Mexico get their "poop in a group" soon, but also that the trashing of this Country by the "unwanteds" that they keep sending over ends as well.
11-27-2007, 08:05 AM #7
Ok, a couple of things:
1. Is there not police in Mexico and if there is, they are all corrupt?
2. Are some Americans asking for it when going south of the border? We hear their side of the story. What about how they act when they are down there. Walking around with cash falling out of ytheir pockets, rolex on their wrists, being abnoxious, and acting like you own everyone. Do you know that an American tourist can be spotted from a mile away...in Europe! Imagine in a third world country.
I think some people need to lay low and go with the flow in certain countries. Do what the locals do. It isnt the USA, so dont expect the special care that we take for granted here.
11-27-2007, 09:53 AM #8
- Asking for it? You mean like, "Please beat me, rape my wife, take all my stuff and ruin my family, because I have nice stuff and decided to spend a few hundred dollars (or thousand) in your town?" Probably not.
11-27-2007, 02:11 PM #9
The 'border' towns are usually full of opportunisits..prey on the walkovers who want to go in and get drunk and stupid...take advantage of being dumb and not caring about their behavior or how they represent America, they get what they deserve. Looking for a thrill, might have a price.
Most of the people who tread a bit deeper are not disrespectful, they've got the drills down, like myself...stay humble...bring all your old clothes, shoes and toys for children, visit an orphange leave them bags and bags of good items, money....most of the people I know that is what we do...and we are low key EXCEPT we're usually pulling a trailer...with our stuff...that makes us a target, becuase we have stuff, and you can't be low key when taking surfboards, jet skis or ATV's.....can't go there in a piece of crap truck, have to bring your own gas with you because you risk bad gas in the newer trucks...
BUT I do agree with you! I have traveled all over the world and I have been most embarassed and ashamed to be American by watching a few obnoxious and disrespectful people...it is just like you say...in anything, one bad apple makes us all look bad...and that can go for Mexicans too, but the difference is the fear associated going there, vs. the fun factor. And it is expensive now..I remember when you went there are you GOT the local value for the pesos against the USD. There are 2 standards of pay....gringo and local nowadays.
Hotels that are crappy are higher than ones here for the value! And gringos have gone down to baja, bought properties, hotels and increased the fees for their own business needs and investments, so its a chain reaction....one feeds on the other. Who is tosay that a businessman can't make a profit? But who are the owners, locals or gringos? And the gringos are they presenting a better result businesswise over the Mexicans? LOL
Baja is not a cheap getaway if you go to Cabo or the bigger cities...the people are generally very nice. You are suppossed to buy insurance at the border, but you have to file a claim by finding a police officer while in Baja. If you die in Baja, you better smuggle the body over the border...and do not take any drugs or guns.....that is the end of your life as you once knew it and will be years possible and lots of money to resolve...must be paid in cash right there immediately. If you need any medical attention, best get out of the country ASAP and back to the USA.
Be very careful driving. I stopped one time for a car with a woman, who was holding a empty plastic bottle for water for the radiator..that was a big mistake...don't think twice about helping someone who looks like they are in trouble, because they are more opportunisits....and don't hit any vehciles or people...god forbid...
12-07-2007, 03:48 AM #10
Last edited by Jammer 1; 12-07-2007 at 03:54 AM.
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