Thursday, October 13, 2011
A home in the heart of Tijuana that used to house drug-traffickers is now in the hands of a well known non-profit.
SAN DIEGO The white, three story, eight bedroom home sits in the heart of Tijuana in the Camino Verde neighborhood. Locals know it as the "mansion". They also know it as the former home of drug-traffickers and criminals.
The Mexican Army seized it in January 2007 when four men were arrested for holding seven people hostage and for committing other drug related crimes.
Ever since then, its been sitting empty. Afraid it will become a haven for criminals, Mexico's Department of Social Development turned the abandoned home into something positive for the community.
As of Wednesday, Tijuana's Boys and Girls Club is the official occupant of the home.
"I think the house is in a an environment that will do a lot of good for the kids," said Enrique Gamboa, President of Mexico's Boys and Girls Club.
The surrounding neighborhood has both high crime and poverty rates.
"So we're going to paint it, get it a nice sign and make some modifications," Gamboa said.
The home still has signs of its past, like damage from bullets and an old mattress on the floor where kidnappers may have held people captive.
But despite that, Gamboa said he's not afraid of criminals returning to reclaim the property.
"The Boys and Girls Club, its the best prevention system there is," he said. "We're going to work along with the citizens, with neighbors and I don't think there is any danger involved."
This home is one of many expected to go from housing criminals to housing charities. Former Tijuana mayoral candidate Carlos Torrres, launched a program to do just that in the state of Baja California. Torres now heads the state's social development department, or SEDESOL.
The program is designed to clean up neighborhoods and keep similar properties from becoming havens for crime.
Meanwhile, Gamboa expects the non-profit will convert the home into Tijuana's second Boys and Girls Club next month, with 150 kids enrolled in mentoring, educational and after school programs.
About 40,000 people live in the Camino Verde neighborhood.