“We are desperate. The siege of these criminals is constant, and we have no way to catch them. We have to do something.”
The voice is that of Guillermo Díaz Orozco, president of the Asociación de Comerciantes del Centro (Tijuana’s downtown merchants’ association), in a recent interview in the daily El Sol de Tijuana.
What Díaz and other Tijuana businessmen want is a return of the policletos, police officers on bicycles that only years ago were a common sight on downtown sidewalks.
In the ensuing years, almost all of the bikes have broken down and are now beyond repair, according to Díaz. As a consequence, he said, the policletos have been disbanded by the city — and downtown robberies have skyrocketed.
“The problem we have downtown is people who come from the canal,” said Díaz, referring to what is popularly known as El Bordo, an area of the concrete canal near the U.S.-Mexico border that channels the Tijuana River. Despite repeated attempts by authorities to clear it, the area remains a magnet for the deported, the homeless, drug addicts, and criminals ranging from small-time drug dealers and petty thieves to armed robbers and murderers.
“They come and observe people,” Díaz continued, “and if they see something, like a pocketbook or a wallet, they snatch them and they go back to the canal and no one can catch them.”
When the policletos patrolled downtown, Díaz said, officers were able to chase down and catch thieves running to the canal, which led to fewer robbery attempts.
Downtown merchants, he said, are prepared to buy new bicycles so the policletos can make a comeback.
“This way, we could get back the level of security we had before,” said Díaz.