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Tijuana residents protest against insecurity

About a thousand people gathered in Tijuana Sunday to voice their disgust with the lack of security in the city. There's been at least a homicide a day this month. A record 490 people were murdered last year. Businessmen also claim kidnappings are at an all-time high and say 10 people remain missing. A number of recent victims are among Tijuana's more well-to-do. KPBS Border Reporter Amy Isackson has the story.

Photo courtesy Francisco Bates

The well-heeled crowd gathered near city hall and was dressed all in white to reflect their desire to bring peace back to Tijuana. They waved white flags with photos of the dead and called for the authorities to do something to combat the crime that's become rampant throughout the city. Elvia Figueroa has lived in Tijuana for 65 years. She says she'd like to see the city the way it was before.

Figueroa: Oh, it was very peaceful, tranquil, you were not afraid to go out. Just like a small town.

She remembers her kids playing in the streets until after dark. But now she says she doesn't go out after 6 p-m because she's afraid.

Figueroa: You're looking always one side to the other to see who is parked next to you. I never go to the supermarket in the evening. And I don't carry anything with me. Nothing that will give attention to myself.

Photo courtesy Francisco Bates

The demonstration was organized by a tennis club where a well known businessman who was murdered earlier this month was a member. Authorities say Alfredo Cuentas was trying to escape kidnappers when he and his 17-year-old son were ambushed by gunmen in an upscale Tijuana neighborhood.

The brazen murder outraged Tijuana's business community. They said it was just one more example of law enforcement's ineptitude. They presented a list of demands to the authorities and gave them thirty days to crackdown not just on kidnappings but crime throughout Tijuana.

Speaker after speaker asked how many more murders it would take to get the authorities to act. Manuel Chaboya's 15-year-old daughter Sara was kidnapped on her way home from school last December. Her captors threw her out of their moving car. She died of massive head wounds.

Photo courtesy Francisco Bates

Chaboya says the investigation is at a standstill. He says the authorities are sending criminals the message, you commit a crime, even one as horrendous as this, and we won't do anything. Demonstrators railed against state, local and federal authorities. Many who voted for Tijuana's Mayor Jorge Hank a year ago, shouted for him to leave office.

When Hank was elected, he said his hand would not tremble in the face of crime. But many charge through inaction, he's let criminals take hold of the city. Ranking city officials and law enforcement authorities did not attend the demonstration. At a press conference afterwards, Mayor Hank's Secretary of Government offered a top down investigation of the municipal police. But he also blamed Tijuana's crime on the state police and a lack of coordination between federal, state and local authorities.

Photo courtesy Francisco Bates

About three hundred federal police arrived in Tijuana last week. But many demonstrators called it an empty show of force. Luis Acosta who works as an engineer in Tijuana says the demonstration may also have little effect.

Acosta: But what I do think is if we make these manifestations again and again, that will cause an effect. Oh yes. The thing is to be patient and try and try and try again.

Demonstrators have staged similar protests the last three years. Amy Isackson, KPBS news.

Photo courtesy Francisco Bates

Photo courtesy Francisco Bates

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