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Tijuana Residents Respond to Disarming of Police

It's been two weeks since Mexico's federal government stripped Tijuana's municipal police of their guns. Yesterday, federal investigators began questioning Tijuana's entire 3,000-man force about their

Tijuana Residents Respond to Disarming of Police

It's been two weeks since Mexico's federal government stripped Tijuana's municipal police of their guns. Yesterday, federal investigators began questioning Tijuana's entire 3,000-man force about their ties to organized crime. Meanwhile, Tijuana residents are voicing mixed feelings about the security of their city. KPBS border reporter Amy Isackson has the story.
Tijuana resident Evelio Ruiz says he's heard the stories of municipal police officers having to use everything from sticks, stones and baseball bats to stop criminals in Tijuana. But he says despite that, he's still glad the local police don't have guns. He says police are supposed to protect and serve … not trick or hurt people … which is what he says they do in Tijuana.

Ruiz chops steaming strips of meat at a taco shop just a few blocks from the U.S. Consulate. He quickly fills a tortilla and spoons on some guacamole. He hands the taco over to customer Ed Griffin.

Griffin is in Tijuana on business. He says he was actually amused when an empty-holstered Tijuana policeman pulled him over.

Ed Griffin: I mean, that really is somewhat emasculating for the local police and I'm sure they feel that.
Griffin says he and his Tijuana business partner Julio Rodriguez were stopped for a supposed traffic violation. He says the municipal officer let them know they could "take care" of the matter right then and there. That's well-understood code for a bribe.

Griffin: So I think they probably deserve the situation that they're in. because they are known to be at least modestly corrupt.

Julio Rodriguez: We asked for the ticket!

Griffin: Julio actually refused to play the game and said give me the ticket, I'm not going to pay you any money.
Julio says police also go in for bigger bribes. He says everyone talks about how the police are in cahoots with kidnappers and drug cartels.

But Guadalupe Leyva, who's lived in Tijuana for 43 years, disagrees.

Guadalupe Leyva: We need the municipal police here in Tijuana. The kidnappings and drugs and all that, right now I think it's between, uh, battles between the people that do that, not the police.
Leyva sips a spoonful of her soup. She's at a restaurant just eight blocks from the site of a grisly murder. Her eyes start to well up ...

Leyva: (sniffles) My brother-in-law, he was murdered one year ago. He was going out of his house. I'm sorry. With his son. And he was stopped. And he resisted because my nephew was with him. And he was murdered. Alfredo Cuentas. On the 13th of January last year.
Leyva says the police haven't investigated the killing. She thinks they're either overwhelmed or they just don't know how. She says that's why it's good that federal forces have arrived in Tijuana. She says they'll provide more manpower. She hopes they'll restore peace to the city.

That's what federal authorities hope for, too. Thursday, federal investigators began interrogating every municipal cop and staffer for ties to organized crime. They say they'll continue until they've questioned the entire 3,000-person force.

Amy Isackson, KPBS News.