Security Precautions in Tijuana

News items concerning drug gang violence in Mexico have been prominent in the media recently. In 2008, we cancelled two trips due to our concerns and on the advice of our contacts in Southern California who make frequent visits to Tijuana. We need to give you, our donors and potential trip volunteers, a report on what we are doing to mitigate the risk to our team members.

In August, 2008, three of our leaders, Deb Miciak, Marvin Makay, and Bob Fritsch took a two-day administrative trip to Tijuana. They met with one of our contacts, George Perez, who crosses the border several times per week to visit the 14 orphanages supported by his organization, Corazon de Vida. The first thing to note is that George has not changed his visit routine in recent years. And Corazon de Vida has reinstituted their monthly orphanage bus trips to Tijuana, which had been suspended for some time. Traveling around Tijuana with him, Deb, Marvin and Bob were pleased to see the city bustling as usual, but with a noticeable decrease of people out and about. After visiting the areas that Capstone teams frequent, they felt confident that we could continue our mission trips safely, as long as certain common-sense precautions were taken. Since that time, we indeed have completed seventeen trips with no problems.

So, what procedures have we implemented to reduce risk of danger to our team members? (1) We do not allow anyone out of the dormitory areas after dark except for the men who need to travel back to their quarters after dinner at St. Joseph’s. (2) No one is allowed to travel anywhere alone. Previously, for example, we had people driving alone to supply stores to purchase needed construction material, but now they must be accompanied by at least one other person. (3) We travel to and from construction sites, supply stores, and dormitories on major thoroughfares and do not allow other sight-seeing or side trips. One exception to this rule is an optional quick shopping trip to the Artesian Market adjacent to the San Ysidro border crossing. (4) We inform everyone of the security situation as we understand it. We encourage them to be observant of their surroundings and the people they see, with an eye toward spotting someone who may be watching or surveilling their movements—the first step a criminal must accomplish before striking. And the common sense part of it, (5) we encourage everyone to use their heads and not put themselves in dangerous or compromising situations, such as attending a street demonstration or visiting a seedy part of town. How they would do this, we aren’t sure, because we watch them all like hawks!