Mexico Road Safety: Part IV
By Dorothy Bell
There are Car Hijackings
They are targeting vehicles that they can use to commit more crimes. They are looking for fast and powerful vehicles. They are after people involved in the drug trade not your average mom and pop heading down the highway.
There are carjackings. There are carjackings in Canada and the US. Somehow they seem scarier in Mexico for a number of reasons.
- The perpetrators have automatic rifles
- The language barrier
- The car hijackers often appear like military or police
The only car-jacking statistics we could find are from a 2004 US Department of Justice report that states there are 38,000 car-jackings annually in the US; 74% of which a weapon was used. I believe the sheer volume of weapon related car-jackings in the US puts the Mexican situation into perspective. (Those US numbers seem alarmingly high to me, but I won’t boycott travel in the US because of it.)
Let me begin by saying that guns scare the bejesus out of me anyway. I was brought up in the city in Canada where there are literally no guns lying around in the average household. My family doesn’t hunt or otherwise use rifles.
Mexico, in fact Latin American countries in general, have always had a lot of visible guns. Outside jewelry stores and banks, for example, hire armed security guards to stand out front of stores protecting the business. It has been this way ever since I started traveling in Mexico twenty years ago. The military has always had semiautomatics at drug checkpoints. It’s the way it is. It’s something I am not comfortable with however and it is unnerving for this Canadian even though I realize that it is a cultural, macho thing and will likely always be that way.
Not knowing the language is also somewhat unnerving when dealing with authorities. You really just have to trust your best pigeon Spanish and their best pigeon English. You hope you are saying and doing the best thing for the situation.
Mexican carjackers posing as the military or police are my biggest concern. I always want to follow the rules of the country when I visit. I want to stop at checkpoints or pullover when the flashing lights behind me start to flash.
The reports I have read and the officials that I have spoken to agree that the drug gangs are not after a beat up old pick up. They are targeting vehicles that they can use to commit more crimes. They are looking for fast and powerful vehicles. They are after people involved in the drug trade not your average mom and pop heading down the highway.
Stay Tuned for Part V...