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Crime in Perspective in Northern Baja

Taking a vacation in a high crime city! No way.
By Patrick Osio

You're planning a vacation trip; you want to stay relatively close to home, no overseas travel, not this year. Maybe Mexico or in the U.S. – but it has to be affordable and with plenty to do. So you’re reading about some cities. You find one of interest, but on reading other information lo and behold you find that the chances of becoming a crime victim in that city are 1 out of 4 – a whopping 25% chance of being a crime victim. That ended that city as a destination.

You select another city, it sounds interesting, but now you also want to check up on how safe it is. Oh my gosh, you read that the chances of being a crime victim are also 1 out of 4. Scratch that one too. You go to the next city of interest, this one has great beaches, from good to excellent sea food restaurants, but before you book rooms, you check the safety. This one is better but still the chances of being a crime victim are 1 out of 5 – a 20% chance. What the heck is going on? Scratch that city.

Now you start checking other cities but begin with the safety factor first – you find that some are 1 out of 7, or 1 out of 8, or 1 out of 9, or 1 out of 10 – one out of ten people that’s 10% of people being victims of crime in that city – that is scary you think and decide maybe you and your family should stay home.

The cities checked before giving up are Chicago, Cincinnati, Miami, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Kansas City, Memphis, Dallas, Richmond, St. Louis, Little Rock, Philadelphia, Tampa, New York, Orlando, Cleveland, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Detroit – you had no idea that the chances of being a victim of crime in those cities was that high. What an eye opener.

But is it really an eye opener or are those cities "guilty by association"?

All the mentioned cities are great places with much history and plentiful things to do and enjoy. The high crime rates are true, but within certain, but not all in fact few, neighborhoods in each of those cities. The odds for being a victim of crime in those neighborhoods fall on the neighborhood residents not the tourists who visit the city and don’t travel into those affected neighborhoods.

New Orleans and Miami, as examples, were suffering from a drop of tourism due to high crime reports leading city officials in New Orleans to explain that the French Quarter where tourists congregate and spend their visiting time are very safe provided they are not involved in criminal activity. All cities mentioned are victims of generalization that the media portrayed and people believe that the entire city is not safe due to some neighborhoods having high crime rates.

Similarly, Baja California has been victimized by an unknowing, some would say insensitive, press that Tijuana, with a population nearing 2 million, covering over 400 square miles with dozens of neighborhoods, has neighborhoods with high crime rates wherein the drug cartels are entrenched, but it does not affect the entire city. Where tourism congregates is relatively free of crime, and other than petty thefts, most other crimes against tourists are negligible in proportion to the number of visitors.

The press reports high profile gang wars, and law enforcement shoot out encounters with drug cartel members as though it is the entire city by not identifying affected neighborhoods or even the size of the city where these confrontations take place. Like the French Quarter of New Orleans the Tijuana sections wherein visitors congregate are as safe as the French Quarter.

It is unfair to generalize about the entire city of New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Dallas and all the others due to high crime in some of their neighborhoods, it is also unfair to generalize about Tijuana.

It is an even greater injustice that in generalizing about Tijuana the nearby municipalities of Rosarito Beach, covering close to 200 square miles, and Ensenada, a giant at over 20,000 square miles of territory, are drawn into the same generalization as Tijuana because travelers are under the impression that to reach them they have to cross Tijuana – not true, but the US press has never corrected the perception. Going to Ensenada from the US-Mexico border one takes a highway that skirts around Tijuana to a very safe toll scenic highway to both Rosarito Beach and Ensenada. Like in Los Angeles, using a freeway that crosses Watts (350% greater homicide rate than rest of L.A.) on the way to Disneyland.

These types of generalizations hurt everybody – the potential visitor to a great city in the US or Baja California because they miss out on a great experience; the city who loses the income that is spent by tourists that create employment and better life for residents; and by workers whose livelihood depends on visitor’s expenditures.

by Patrick Osio


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Posted: Friday, July 24, 2009 11:48 AM by Herb Kinsey


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