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Tijuana: Death by Media A Must read for all

By Patrick Osio, Jr./HispanicVista.com   March 1, 2008    
Death by Media
By Patrick Osio

On February 22nd, a lady reported she was raped at gunpoint in the early evening as she was jogging near the San Elijo Lagoon (North San Diego County), yet that heinous crime only merited a one column, two paragraph news item along with other “Crime Watch” reports found on section B on the San Diego Union-Tribune, the regions only major newspaper. However, a lady was raped in Baja California in October 2007, while on a surfing trip with her boyfriend and it merited front page news.

The point is, heinous crimes are the same anywhere and crime exists everywhere in the world, including San Diego and yes, Baja California. But it does seem that when it comes to crime, the local news, as well as most US news, loves to spike the incidents in Mexico and the news results in “travel warnings.” The results are that such reporting greatly diminishes tourism to Baja which is largely dependent on that economic sector. This in turn creates unemployment.

Putting things in perspective, in San Diego in the four months from September through December there were 14 murders, 115 rapes, 347 armed robberies, 423 strong arm robberies, and 1,558 aggravated assaults. Now try to recollect how many of these were the objects of high profile news reports, over and over again – same story rehashed or made into national news? And have there been “travel warnings” advising visitors of the potential dangers of traveling to San Diego?

Due to the war on organized crime there have been more killings in Tijuana than in San Diego, but Los Angeles. From December 23, 2007 through February 16, 2008 (less than 2 months), there were 58 homicides (rivaling Tijuana), 114 rapes, 1,922 robberies and 1,751 aggravated assaults. And no travel warnings? The total crimes surpass those of Tijuana, Rosarito Beach, and Ensenada.

Beating out Los Angeles (and Baja) are cities such as Philadelphia were a recent Nightline report indicated that before deploying to Iraq Army doctors, are sent to the emergency rooms of local hospitals to get experience in treating  gun shots, stabbings, and assorted different traumas because every night the emergency rooms are filled with over 75 such victims. Las Vegas, Houston and Dallas, Detroit and New Orleans that leads the nation on homicides - all of these cities have higher homicides than does Tijuana. Yet Americans are encouraged to visit those cities instead of issuing “travel warning.”

Another crime widely reported about Tijuana was about two real estate sales ladies who were kidnapped. The only connection to the US is that one of them is married to a US citizen. The family contacted government officials who sent the Baja California Organized Crime Unit. The ladies were rescued unharmed, the gang of 4 was captured, and they are now implicated in 14 homicides and assorted other crimes. They face a very long jail sentence. This very positive bit of news was found buried in the U-T’s back pages of section B. Why?

The most recent aberration in the Union-Tribune was a report entitled, “Kidnappings of U.S. citizens on rise” (February 6, 2008). The report indicates that in 2007 a total of 26 kidnappings took place in Tijuana. The headline would indicate that the victims were US citizens, but were they?

The staff writer indicates they are at the start of his report, but thereafter refers to the victims as “San Diego County residents” and the report describes the typical targeted victim as having business ties in Tijuana. Clearly the description does not fit the day or longer stay for pleasure “tourist” as the targets. In fact a January message from the U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana notes, “There is no evidence that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted because of their citizenship.”

I sent an e-mail to the U-T writer asking how many of the 26 were US citizens and how many Mexican nationals. He responded – “all are US citizens.”  Since the FBI was used as the source for the number, I contacted Special Agent Darrel Foxworth, public affairs officer for the San Diego office,  to whom I posed the same question. He said the FBI does not keep records as to the citizenship of the victims. In order to find this out, a Freedom of Information letter would have to be sent requesting the data. It would take some time as numerous records would have to be reviewed to extract the information.

I asked if this could be done in 2 days. He said no, it would take longer.

The “2 days” was key because the U-T writer appeared on Glenn Beck’s CNN national TV program who said that once he got the “tip” it took 2 days to put the story together. I wonder then, if the FBI does not keep such records, and it would take longer than 2 days to obtain the data, how is it that the Union-Tribune writer was able to so authoritatively state all the victims were US citizens?

All the above is not to dismiss the crime problems faced in Tijuana and Rosarito that have escalated since President Calderon declared war on organized crime. Nor should we dismiss the seriousness of the problems faced along the coast of Baja though the incidents to tourists are relatively small in numbers when compared to the total visitors.  Nor is there a suggestion that the local, state or national news media should stop reporting incidents of crime in Mexico or Baja.

What must take place by responsible news media is to report factually and with the same enthusiasm as shown when reporting on a crime, report the successes Baja law enforcement is having in winning the war against crime. And not rehash the same stories over and over again as add on to a new incident, as it is not done for local crime reports.

And, would it be out of line to suggest that much of the Baja problems with organized crime is due to the drug appetite by US citizens and residents? ________________________________________________________________________________ Patrick Osio, Jr. is Editor and columnist for HispanicVista.com. Contact at: Posiojr@aol.com
Published Wednesday, March 26, 2008 4:28 AM by Zinnia Q.

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