Intelligence Division, National Consulting & Security Services (a Starside Security & Investigation, Inc. Company)
TRAVEL ASSESSMENT On: TIJUANA, MEXICO
Country Threat Level: 4
National Consulting & Security Services (a Starside Security & Investigation Company)
6540 Lusk Blvd., Suite 214
San Diego, CA 92121
Prepared: May 4, 2007
This report contains confidential information prepared exclusively for a Client. National Consulting & Security Services (a Starside Security & Investigation, Inc. Company) does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of outside agency records.
The contents of this report were compiled from multiple sources including OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council), the Department of State and Baja California Office of the State Attorney General reports as well as Starsides’ intelligence sources on the ground in Tijuana and Dr. H.E. Hal Goudarzi, CPP Chief Operations Officer NCSS a Starside Security & Investigation, Inc. Company
In Mexico and specifically Tijuana official law enforcement sources are suspect at best. In January 2007 Federal Officers took all firearms from the Police Force in Tijuana leaving officers to patrol the streets with sticks, stones and sling-shots. The reason giving for taking the officers weapons was to fight Organized Crime. In 2004 four Mexican Federal Investigation Agency Agents (Mexico’s version of our FBI) a unit setup by then President Vicente Fox were arrested for helping to kidnap a druggist in Tijuana and demanded an $ 18,000 ransom.
Violence against foreign nationals in Tijuana is on the rise. As will be discussed later kidnapping for ransom is a highly organized and booming multimillion-dollar business in Mexico and specifically in Tijuana. In the past Mexican Nationals were the primary target of the kidnappers, this is still the case, but it is changing to include more and more foreigners. Consequently, the risk to both foreigners and Mexican businessmen is greater than ever.
As a result of the information gathered for this report I would recommend that all executive transports from San Diego to the Client plant thru the Tijuana area be augmented by a security detail in the principle be transported in an armored vehicle. Later in this report precautions and preparations to mitigate the security threat will be discussed.
NCSS (a Starside Security & Investigation, Inc. Company) prepared this report for Client as part of their RFP process. The purpose of the report is to generate a security risk assessment for transporting Executives from San Diego to Client’s Plant and to propose practices and procedures to mitigate these risks.
The preparation of this report consisted of obtaining information from Starside Agents on the ground in Tijuana and in Mexico City. OSAC and Department of State reports were reviewed for additional information. Statistics were obtained from the Baja California Office of the State Attorney General.
The types of threats that will be encountered and their root causes were examined. Then a best practices approach was investigated to facilitate realistic recommendations for mitigating the threats.
As a beginning to this report it is appropriate to quote the Drug Enforcement Administration Report to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence 8/17/06. While the statistics are alarming, what is more alarming is that there have been estimates of these numbers representing as little as 10% of the real numbers.
Incidents of violence and murder, much of which is drug-related, have remained at elevated levels in Mexico for almost two years, as the major Mexican DTOs (Drug Trafficking Organization) in that country continue to vie for control of the lucrative drug smuggling corridors that lead to the United States. The year 2005 represented one of the most violent years on record in Mexico in regard to drug-related murders. For example, murders more than doubled in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas—from 65 murders in 2004 to at least 177 murders, including 19 active and former Municipal and Ministerial police officers, in 2005. During the first four months of 2007, there have been at least 700 deaths attributed to narcotics and organized drug cartels in Mexico. At this pace, drug-related murders in Mexico are set to far out pace the record 1,543 murders committed in 2005. Border cities such as Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, and Tijuana continue to experience much of the violence but cities in the southern states of Guerrero, Michoacán, and Sinaloa have experienced an increase in violence as the drug-war has spread to other regions of the country.
So far this year there have been two unusual violence trends that have proliferated throughout Mexico: the storming of a Hospital in Tijuana to try to free a Police prisoner and the increase of violence at the border toward US Border Patrol Officers.
In 1999 Baja California was among 10 Mexican states with the least number of kidnappings ending in murder. Now, the trend is going in the opposite direction. Last year, the northern Border States were rated number three nationally for kidnap-murders, falling only behind Mexico City.
In 2005 Mexico surpassed Colombia as the leader in reported kidnapping crimes in the world. In 2007 there are estimates that Mexico will reach approximately 4000 kidnappings, which is about ten times the number expected to be reported to authorities.
In January 2007 gunman ambushed the chief bodyguard for the major of Tijuana, Jorge Vera who was driving home at one a.m.; two cars surprised him and started shooting. Vera is a Municipal Police Officer he was not injured in this incident. In 2006 13 Tijuana Municipal Police Officers were killed.
In March 2007 a Mexican executive with Philips Lighting de Mexico was kidnapped from the company parking lot; the captured kidnappers stated they planned the kidnapping for two months. The kidnappers demanded $ 100,000 the family of the Mexican Citizen paid $10,000 for his safe return. Baja California’s Attorney General Antonio Martinez Luna believes the kidnappers are linked to the group that kidnapped Mamoru Konno from a company picnic in 1996; Konno was a Japanese Executive for Sanyo Video Components that was released after a ransom of 2 million dollars was paid.
March 8, 2007 a report from Rueters states U.S. Agents under greater attack on the Mexican Border; frustrated by tighter security on the US Mexico border, illegal immigrants and drug traffickers are taking it out on U.S. agents, increasingly attacking them with guns, rocks and petrol bombs. According to the report assaults against Border Patrol Officers rose 10 percent to 843 incidents in the year to September 2006 from the same period a year before, officials say. It is a near three-fold increase from two years previously. Drug cartels have instructed there people to go down fighting. Recent arrests and prosecutions to Border Patrol Agents are suspected to make agents wary of using their weapons and to have an adverse effect on officer’s decision making and second guess decisions.
April 18, 2007 a group of heavily armed gunman stormed Tijuana’s General Hospital. The armed gunmen took hostages and killed three in an effort to free a prisoner from an earlier shoot-out with Police at Tijuana’s main bus station. Police responded to the main bus station on reports of a stolen vehicle, when police arrived a shoot out occurred, police transported the one person in custody from that battle to the hospital. Of the three killed one was a corrections officer, one unrelated civilian and a gunman; a police officer and a hospital security officer was injured.
U.S. citizens have been injured by random shootings on major highways outside Tijuana, Nuevo Laredo and Mexico City, the U.S. Embassy issued an advisory “Drug cartel members have been known to follow and harass U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles, particularly in border areas,”
Although there have been inroads made in recent years, unfortunately, there is still great deal of mistrust where the Mexican law enforcement is concerned. There is suspicion that local and Federal law enforcement officers have been involved in a number of the kidnappings. As a result many victim families or companies prefer to deal directly with the kidnappers rather than aggravating the situation or risking going to the authorities.
Kidnappings generally occur for one of two reasons: financial gain or terrorism. Most if not all of the kidnappings occurring in Mexico are for financial gain. Other than financial gain the kidnappings are sometimes against rival drug organizations for revenge or to collect money owed.
Many of your kidnappers are drug cartel members who see kidnapping as a method to increase capital. Drug trafficking is the major source of money, however some of the smaller trafficking groups use kidnapping as a way to augment their income. Some of the groups include former military personnel or criminals in league with corrupt law enforcement personnel. In recent years there has been an influx of former highly trained military from South America. They have come north to work for the cartels and make their fortunes.
Kidnappers have become more violent. In the past, victims were rarely molested. Now female captives are usually raped, and men are often beaten and mutilated. Ears and other body-parts are sent to the victim's families. Kidnappers in Mexico are three times more likely to kill their victims than are their counterparts in Colombia. About one out of every seven people kidnapped in Mexico died at the hands of their captors in 2005, compared to one out of every 26 victims in Colombia. Daniel Arizmendi Felix is credited with this emerging trend. Prior to his arrest in Mexico City, he established himself as the ear kidnapper because of his pension for sending ears to the families of his victims.
Criminal elements, primarily located within Northern Mexico in and around Tijuana, are now using new methods to kidnap by leveraging family or relationships based inside the United States. Large and small drug trafficking groups hire Hispanic gang members from San Diego as assassins, or recruit sons of well-to-do Mexican families, commonly referred to as "Narco-Juniors." Both are valued because they have U.S. citizenship or valid visas and can travel between countries at will. These groups act as facilitators during ransom payments or as the actual kidnappers themselves.
Express kidnappings occur at a rate of 10 per day in Mexico according to some estimates. It is also believed that this represents only 10% of the actual cases. These occur when the victim is abducted for a couple of hours and forced to draw money from his/her ATM account and then released. They also will sometimes abduct the victim and then contact the family and make their ransom demands. In a few days, after the family has paid the ransom they are released. The kidnapper will also relieve the victim of his/her personal possessions (i.e. jewelry, credit cards, cash, cell phones)
Your traditional kidnapping generally occurs where the victims are more affluent. With these kidnappings the victims are still more often than not Mexican Nationals. Although this trend is shifting and more and more to foreigners, particularly Executives traveling to and from work in Mexico from the United States are being targeted.
These kidnappings are usually well-organized professional gangs. Lately many of them are former military or law enforcement. As mentioned previously these kidnapping are becoming more and more violent if the families or companies do not pay the ransoms. The kidnappers in these cases usually make demands for large sums of money. With the threat of mutilation the victim’s families were more likely to comply.
While some of the kidnappers use violence as a tool to persuade the victims or their families or to eliminate witnesses there are others that use it indiscriminately.
Over and above the aforementioned hazards of doing business in Mexico you have the common thieves who will steal your car or wallet. These criminals are the common robbers and petty thieves that are found in every country around the world.
Some other concerns while traveling in Mexico include the need for your security to understand their laws. For example, it is best not to carry even a pocketknife into Mexico as this can result in a weapons charge if a knife is found on a traveler who is arrested for separate offense or searched by police. Visitors driving across the border should ensure that their vehicles contain no firearms or bullets. Mexico imposes harsh penalties for bringing so much as one bullet across its borders.
If you are involved in an accident and someone is injured, there is a good chance you will be arrested until the law enforcement personnel can determine who is at fault. Mexican police are pre disposed to find an American at fault unless there are independent witnesses.
Education and Training are probably the most effective way to protect Client’s executives from kidnapping in Mexico. Employees and families should be aware of the risks and protective measures they can take to minimize their exposure to dangerous situations. Awareness and preparation are invaluable tools for mitigating hazardous situations.
Company crisis management and business continuity departments to plans should be contemporary. These plans facilitate an organized response to a crisis or catastrophic occurrence. These plans should be documented and understood through the entire hierarchy of the company. Specifically, if traveling in Mexico there should be a plan in place to provide for employee support in the event of a medical emergency or abduction.
When planning for travel to Mexico contingencies should be considered for everything from being abducted or seriously injured to alternative lodging and travel arrangements. As a private company you are not going to be able to stop kidnappings, but you can plan a response that will help mitigate the consequences to both the company and the individual.
Changing your mind set is of paramount importance. Some people feel that they will not be targeted because they are not rich. However, the criminals do not necessarily know this. Additionally a middle class individual in the United States may be perceived as well to do in Mexico.
Starside takes the following precautions to minimize becoming a target.
Vary executive routines – avoid unsafe areas. If you feel uncomfortable don’t go there. Change travel times and routes going to and from work.
Avoid public transportation for all employees – taxis, bus etc. If an employee is being picked up at an airport have some per-designated identification process to confirm they are who they say they are.
Starside Executive Protection Specialist pay attention to their environment – this includes people around the transport vehicle you who might be acting suspiciously where you are concerned.
Dress conservatively – avoid wearing clothing or jewelry that is indicative of wealth.
Never allow executives to travel alone if possible
Kidnapping and Ransom (K&R) insurance is warranted when traveling in Mexico. This is a particularly good idea when traveling every day into and out of Mexico. The usual K&R policy becomes active when the insured is the victim of a kidnap, hijacking, threat to kill or injure. The company issuing the policy will usually cover expenses associated with a crisis management team, payment and delivery of the ransom as the result of a covered incident and legal liabilities associated with the situation. Starside carries a $ 200,000 Kidnap & Ransom Insurance policy that covers all Starside employees, protectees and anyone in Starside’s care and control. Starside’s policy covers all expenses associated with the incident in Mexico and anywhere around the globe.
When traveling regularly to and from Tijuana Starside recommends traveling with a Starside security team. A professionally trained security driver is mandatory. Starside sends all protective drivers to a 3 day Tony Scotti protective driving course. The reason is that the ordinary driver is not trained in avoidance of critical situations such as roadblocks or someone attempting to run them off the road. A professional security driver knows the area and alternative routes because Starside performs advances for numerous clients. Starside’s driver will be familiar with local hospitals and their capabilities, law enforcement station locations. He will locate and designate “safe locations” to retreat to in cases of emergency.
Some companies doing business regularly in Tijuana bus their employees to the plants in mini vans or similar conveyances. If traveling with only one or two executives I recommend an armored vehicle with a chase car. The chase car eliminates the possibility of the executives being stranded by vehicle problems. A group of executives stranded on the side of the road could very well be an invitation for trouble.
Remember, American security personnel cannot legally carry any type of weapon in Mexico. Therefore the best defense against kidnappers or other criminals is intelligence, awareness, training and preparedness. Starside has an intelligence unit that’s sole responsibility is to inform and advise Starside Agents in the field and to gather intelligence on Mexico.
As you are aware there are over a thousand production plants employing over two hundred thousand people in the Tijuana area. Hundreds if not thousands of US Corporate Executives travel from the United States into Mexico (Tijuana) daily most of these Executives do not travel with a protection escort. Most do not provide regional security briefings for their executives that do travel to and from Tijuana. Traveling without security is needlessly contributing to the possibility of the executive being kidnapped or otherwise accosted.
Incidents of US Executives being abducted are rare but on the increase as the situation in Tijuana has worsened since 2004. Starside’s Experience, Corporations Education, preparation and training as well as having a comprehensive security program can greatly reduce the chances of it happening to a Client executive.
Robert Coventry, CPP, CBM, CMI, CHS (III) President & CEO
Dr. H.E. Hal Goudarzi, CPP Chief Operations Officer
National Consulting & Security Services (a Starside Security & Investigation, Inc. Coompany)
May 5, 2007
A Police Chief for the southern Mexican State of Chiapas was assassinated. A group of men shot state police chief Manuel Cordova as he traveled in a truck in the city of Tapachula near the border with Guatemala, state authorities said Drug gangs in Mexico occasionally assassinate senior local cops and it is sometimes unclear whether they have been targeted because of involvement with organized criminals or in retribution for trying to catch them.
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