By Luis Alonso Pérez
Tijuana’s police chief, Luis Javier Algorri Franco, announced the implementation of a police operative in the city’s tourist zone and financial district called “Safe Zone: Rio Zone/International border crossing”.
The operative will attempt to protect the area next to the international border crossing, the downtown tourist zone, the Rio financial district and the Tijuana River canal.
“This is about having a strong presence of police elements in this part of town” said Algorri, “so we can at least certify this part of town as a safe zone”.
During a press conference he explained that the police department wants to begin with this part of town because it’s the doorway, and consequently the face of Tijuana and it is also the city’s most important tourist zone, financial and commercial area.
“When tourists cross into Tijuana they don’t get a good impression, and everyone who has crossed the border can notice there’s a lot of disorder and high criminality levels” stated Algorri Franco.
According to public safety authorities, the Tijuana River canal area should be very well protected since it has very particular problems.Throughout the years it has turned into a shelter for delinquents like robbers, gang members and drug addicts, because it allows them to commit their crimes near the canal and then quickly go back and hide.
The planning for the operative was based on investigations made by undercover agents from the police department’s intelligence unit, who photographed and videotaped the areas most affected by crime in Tijuana.
One of the most important findings of the investigations were the crimes committed on Revolucion Avenue by employees who attract customers into bars or nightclubs, better known as “pullers”.
The chief of police assured that most of these delinquents come from the US. Many of them have criminal backgrounds in their country and they are frequently involved in drug sales to tourists.
Aurelio Martínez Paz will be heading the operative, and there will be 200 officers assigned to protect the area, 169 of them are recent graduates from the police academy and 31 transferred from the commercial police. They will be equipped with 22 vehicles, 18 bicycles and a complex surveillance camera system.
Public safety authorities assured that problems in those areas go far beyond delinquency, such is the case of drug addicts, homeless and mentally ill people, therefore they will be collaborating with other government agencies and NGO’s like the Secretary of Social Development and drug rehabilitation centers.
The operative was compared by Algorri Franco to those carried out in cities like Los Angeles and New York, assuring that they successfully achieved the implementation of safety zones in spite of having other areas in town with high criminality levels.
The head of public security assured that this operative model will be implemented in other parts of Tijuana and turned into new “Safe Zones”, however, they don’t have enough resources or officers to cover the whole city.
According to Algorri Franco, there is a deficit in the lines of the police department, because at least five thousand officers are required to patrol the entire city, and the current administration only has 1,750 elements.
The “Safe Zone” operative began last week and it will remain active indefinitely.