State was unprepared for crime — and still is. State was unprepared for crime.

State defenseless against violent crime

Security forces in Baja California Sur were unprepared, and still are

When violent crime began to increase in Baja California Sur in 2014, the state’s security forces were hopelessly unprepared to combat it, leaving them virtually defenseless against the scourge.

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That’s the view shared by security analysts, civil society and both state and federal authorities, all of whom recognize that the same security shortcomings also made it easy for criminal gangs to establish a presence in the state.

A security official from state capital La Paz who spoke to the newspaper El Universal on condition of anonymity said that the state’s police remain both ineffective and unresponsive to violent crime.

“Our police don’t know how to handle a confrontation. Police from La Paz don’t know what to shoot at, how to hide, how to protect people or how to cordon off an area to provide support,” he said.

“If there is a clash . . . the police are simply not going to arrive, they’ll leave them, because they don’t know [what to do], they haven’t had any ongoing training program in [crime] response, prevention and investigation,” he added.

According to the non-governmental organization Causa en Común, police in Baja California Sur lag behind forces in every other state in the country in terms of training and professionalism.

In a study published in November, the organization pointed to shortcomings of the state’s police academy including the absence of a shooting range, driving track and facilities to carry out tactical training.

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State governor Carlos Mendoza committed to having a new facility completed by the end of last year but it has not yet materialized.

In addition, Causa en Común said that police recruits had revealed that they had to pay for their uniforms and other expenses out of their own pockets and that their superiors often sent them on personal errands.

After two criminal groups faced off in a shootout in the state that left three people dead in July 2014, two things became immediately clear to the local population: organized crime had infiltrated the state and municipal and state police were not prepared to deal with it.

Statistics from the National Public Security System confirm those initial fears.

There were 126 homicides in the state in 2014 but that number almost doubled to 226 the following year. The figure reached 281 in 2016 before surging to a total of 701 murders last year. Only Colima recorded a higher per-capita homicide rate in 2017.

The number of homicides has increased so dramatically since 2014 that a new cemetery had to be built in La Paz.

But although the growing violence problem was clear to citizens, authorities were slow to react and it wasn’t until November 2016 that the first federal tactical and intelligence forces arrived in La Paz.

During a visit to Baja California Sur the same month, then interior secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong said the state had practically started from zero in terms of its response to increasing levels of violent crime.

“There was no anti-kidnapping agency, there was nowhere to train police, it was thought that nothing ever happened in La Paz and nothing was ever going to happen,” he said at the time.

Finally, last month National Security Commissioner Renato Sales announced that 5,000 additional Federal Police officers would be deployed to “key cities” in the country including the popular tourism destinations of Los Cabos and La Paz.

However, the director of the National Citizens’ Observatory stressed that the presence of federal forces would not alone solve the problem.

Francisco Rivas also said that the organization had warned authorities since 2014 of an imminent security crisis but they failed to heed the warning and implement a security strategy that works.

Adding to Baja California Sur’s problems, there is a shortage of crime scene investigators to solve cases and the state’s medical emergency services are also severely inadequate.

Groups of volunteers or private companies respond to 90% of emergency calls that are made in the state and the state government only has one rescue aircraft and just five Civil Protection ambulances.

The leader of one group of volunteers that has been responding to emergencies in La Paz since 1999 attributed the situation to inaction and apathy on the part of successive governments.

“No government has been concerned about emergency attention,” Juan Alfonso Lamarque said, adding that the group has to do its own fundraising to cover the majority of its costs.

All of the state’s morgues — with the exception of the one in Los Cabos which was built last year — are also outdated and lack the space required to cope with the increasing number of bodies they are receiving.

Faced with the threat crime poses to the tourism-oriented state’s economy, the business community in Los Cabos last month pledged 140 million pesos to build new military barracks in the popular tourism destination.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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  • WestCoastHwy

    There was a time when Baja Sur was Mexicanless, those were sweet times! But the locals always were talking about the time when they would come and I see that time has come; so sad! But on a positive note, there will be more business for us developers, building those new compounds.

    • Dave Warren

      Doesn’t saying stuff like that bother you? That is really sort of Loudmouth Yankee insensitivity. What do you expect people to lead in a cheer? Mexico has some serious problems but I like it here. I don’t even understand you. I was in La Paz and Cabo in 1980. I never went through any Customs.Just walked from outside San Diego. The Customs occurred when I boarded the Ferry to Puerto Vallarta. One of the greatest boat trips for me ever. Those towns were full of Mexican people.

      • David Nichols

        Helluva walk from SD to La Paz…!

        • Dave Warren

          Yeah I know how it sounds… but I just mean’t that Baja was a freeport at that time. There were no Customs. The Customs were before boarding the ferry. Is it still a freeport? I don’t even know. Haven’t been there since Hollywood moved in?

      • WestCoastHwy

        Dave (Holden Caulfield) Warren, those are some serious fighting words you are expressing to me. I do not know you but if I did, I would kick your azz! Get a life and express your catcher in the rye mentality else where, this is a free speech area, if you don’t like what I comment then block me but please don’t be a dick TROLL.

        • Dave Warren

          You are the Troll… Mr. West Coaster. And that’s all I have to say about that.

          • WestCoastHwy

            Dick Troll you are!

          • Dave Warren

            No You!

          • WestCoastHwy

            Blocked dick troll

    • WestCoastHwy

      And employment for the Mexican guys to sit out in front of your compound will also increase.

  • Mike S

    You get what you pay for. Cabo, La Paz, and surrounding areas have had enormous tourist, housing. and infrastructure development the last 30 years. There has been lots of big money invested from US, Europe, Canada, and Mexico. It’s a magical special place. Not much in taxes were collected for for any “security” concerns…that was always considered a “mainland” problem. Now the cartel cancer has spread to Baja sur because there is lots of money there. The authorities and investors large and small should have seen this coming 15 years ago and prepared a robust defense. Now they are starting way behind the power curve. I wish them luck- it’s such a special place.

  • Pesobill

    Well the murder rate rate of Baja Sewer is 169 per 100k so just worse than one of the highest crime places in the world: El Salvador! So the clueless gringos continue to say how ‘safe’ they feel is a joke II do remember when Baja was safe and beautiful but those days are long gone. Now it is just a over rated ghetto with crime and graffiti. No thanks..

    • cooncats

      And yet millions of us are living in this failed state, proving one can do so. Also, glad to see you understand the link between graffiti and crime. Think of it as free advertising for gangs and cartels.

  • DreadFool

    you can’t have your fish taco and eat it.

  • cooncats

    Seems to me this could just as easily describe the country as a whole. What state in Mexico doesn’t fit this: “organized crime had infiltrated the state and municipal and state police were not prepared to deal with it.”

    For the most part organized crime and the government are one and the same in Mexico. It is Columbia all over again on a much larger scale.

    • Beau

      Yep!

    • David Nichols

      If they are “not prepared to deal with it” perhaps the name La Paz is ill advised…!

  • Garry Montgomery

    The Feds need to set up an “Untouchable” group just as Chicago did in the days of Al Capone. There’s no other immediate solution. Every State in Mexico is suffering from the same civil disease.

    • WestCoastHwy

      Mexico does have that untouchables group, they just keep showing up dead in the trucks of cars. I’ve been in and out of Mexico for over thirty years and it wouldn’t surprise me if Mexican Federal security agents would get wise and stop enlisting; it shortens one’s life faster than joining a Mexican Cartel.

      • Garry Montgomery

        But of course the Yankee “untouchables” were smarter and tougher than any Mexican recruit.

  • Bob Quigley

    root problem?? war on drugs. wishful thinking that any nation could win this war. US has overdose corpses piling up in inadequate coolers (sound familiar). US has largest most expensive prison system in the world in spite of the fact that we are 5% of global population with a high percentage of inmates invloved in drugs. Corruption by police and other officials although not at Mexican levels is significant. Whether we choose to recognize this or not is irrelevant. The war is over. Drugs won years ago. Past time to put false patriotism + puritanism out to pasture. Legal relatively safe taxed drug use now. No different than what weve done with booze, tobacco, gambling, prostitution,

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