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February 16, 2009 12:48 AM   Subscribe

"Ransom kidnapping is a rare crime in America. Most cops go their entire careers without handling one. These days, most kidnappings involve a husband taking a child from an estranged wife. That's how things were in Phoenix until a few years ago." via 2blowhards.com
posted by cgc373 (26 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Every time I read a story like this, I literally do a facepalm. You want to get rid of violent Mexican drug gangs smuggling and selling marijuana and the attendant violence and other related crime? Make it so it's not profitable for them to do so. How do you do that? Well, it's really pretty simple. FUCKING LEGALIZE MARIJUANA YOU FUCKING SHIT-FOR-BRAINS. When alcohol was illegal, it gave birth to the modern La Cosa Nostra. Now, of course, after prohibition was repealed all the gangsters didn't go straight and become insurance salesmen, and the same won't happen with the Mexican gangs. But it will cut off a major source of their profit, and greatly reduce their power and the motivation for full-on warfare in the streets of Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo, and there's no real drawback to doing it.

The only reason I can even think of for why marijuana is still illegal in America is because legalizing it would mean a lot of powerful people having to admit they were wrong. That's it. There's really no other real reason. At this point, it's effectively legal anyway, at least in the cities. If a cop pulls you over and finds an eighth in your pocket, unless you're in BFE while driving from outpost of civilization to outpost of civilization, he probably won't even bother with the paperwork to give you your misdemeanor ticket.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:47 AM on February 16, 2009 [23 favorites]


There is a 2nd type of kidnapping occurring in Phoenix. That's the holding of trucks full of illegal immigrants by the coyotes who bring them across the border. They generally are taken to large, million dollar homes in upper-middle class neighborhoods where the police don't suspect what is happening.

There may be dozens of immigrants held as hostages at the same place while their families back home in Mexico are extorted for ransom. Like the drug-related cartel kidnappings, it has become a significant problem for Phoenix law enforcement.
posted by netbros at 1:56 AM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


DecemberBoy, you're right. It's a continuing puzzle why otherwise rational people can acknowledge that Prohibition was a bad idea, but that the War on Drugs is going to turn out completely differently for some unspecified reason. This, after decades of results indistinguishable from those of Prohibition. It's easy to see why law enforcement is all for it - it's a giant cash cow for them. What makes so many others think there's any benefit from it, I can't figure out.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:40 AM on February 16, 2009


I have a friend in the gaming industry. He worked for a company in southern California. When he was offered a new job in San Francisco, his first thought was: "Well, that's a lot farther for the Mexican drugwar violence to reach." So he took the new job, and getting away from southern CA was his main motivator. (Unfortunately for me, he needed a seven grand loan to make the transition possible -- but that's what friends are for, and he's got me half paid back now, so no biggie.)

I read that more people died from Mexican drug-related violence in just one of Mexico's 'states' (whatever they call them) in just one year than U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan combined in SIX years. That's just crazy bad.

I don't blame my friend a bit for heading north. It seems like the closer you get to Canada, the safer you are these days. The worst thing the Canadians are gonna do to you is charge you high prices for some of their excellent pot.
posted by jamstigator at 3:41 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dammit! These Mexicans are taking jobs away from American kidnappers!
posted by orme at 4:27 AM on February 16, 2009


"Florida law justifies use of deadly force when you are trying to protect yourself or another person from death or serious bodily harm, or trying to prevent a forcible felony, such as rape, robbery, burglary or kidnapping."

I wonder if "stand your ground" laws would make this unfortunate trend reverse itself? We derailed the thread a little bit, but the talk about the Mexican Drug War and the violence it spreads could potentially be contained if people in the southwest were able to protect themselves, right?

Mitigating factors: it can be hard to get a permit and expensive to own a gun. Many (most?) of the people targeted by the violence are unable to qualify (felons, non-citizens, etc.)
posted by taumeson at 4:36 AM on February 16, 2009


..He worked for a company in southern California. When he was offered a new job in San Francisco, his first thought was: "Well, that's a lot farther for the Mexican drugwar violence to reach." So he took the new job, and getting away from southern CA was his main motivator...

I read that more people died from Mexican drug-related violence in just one of Mexico's 'states' (whatever they call them) in just one year than U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan combined in SIX years. That's just crazy bad.


They're called states. The country is called the United States of Mexico.

Are you saying that average citizens in San Diego have fears of getting caught up in Mexican drug war violence? As a native San Diegan, thats news to me.
posted by vacapinta at 5:59 AM on February 16, 2009


Maybe he meant to say "gaming" industry.

Or perhaps things at Blizzard are worse than we thought, so he had an opportunity to move to Blizzard North. Ever since the Hellgate opened in Irvine, things have been kid of tough. But instead of demonic hell-spawn...it's just Mexicans.
posted by Xoebe at 6:09 AM on February 16, 2009


The only reason I can even think of for why marijuana is still illegal in America is because legalizing it would mean a lot of powerful people having to admit they were wrong. That's it. There's really no other real reason.

No, there's another real reason: a certain segment of the U.S. population, the fundamentalist right, are the temperance crusaders of the 21st century and are extremely well organized politically.

Complaining about "powerful people" in a democracy is victim-speak. The power resides in the electorate, to the extent they are focused and organized enough to exert it. The problem is that there's no bloc in American politics right now working to support legalization with even a tenth the fervor, organizational savvy, and ability to deliver votes that typifies the anti-legalization right.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:13 AM on February 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


What proportion of international cartels' income comes from pot? I'm sure it's hard to know exactly (and that official statistics are lies), but my understanding was that coke, meth, and heroin are the money makers.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:22 AM on February 16, 2009


Marijuana will never, ever, be legalized in the United States. The country enjoys spiting hippies too much for that to ever happen. To say nothing of the profit & power gained by maintaining the status quo.
posted by Forrest Greene at 8:13 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait, does anyone have proof that this is all related to pot? Pot is a low margin drug that can be grown at home. Even if pot was legal these guys wouldnt give up the criminal life and suddenly become priests and nuns. They'll just find another controlled substance to sell. That will involve the same crime we're seeing here.

There's a great argument for decrim/legalization but "stopping kidnappings" isnt part of it. I think its this shrill reactionary attitude that keeps the legalization crowd from making any inroads with middle America and Washington.

As much as I want to blame "the man" for holding me down, how about we blame the criminals for crime? Or heaven forbid we do a better job controlling the border and on immigration.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:16 AM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait, does anyone have proof that this is all related to pot?

Well, here's the first few paragraphs of TFA:

Two men with a gun grabbed the 34-year-old from his van and dragged him 50 yards to a waiting SUV. His wife threw rocks at the car, then gave chase in her own SUV. Neighbors in northwest Phoenix called police. Yet when police found her later, she at first denied there was a problem.

On the phone later, as detectives listened in, kidnappers said Perez-Torres had stolen someone's marijuana.

But police were used to conflicting story lines by now. It was Phoenix, after all: More ransom kidnappings happen here than in any other town in America, according to local and federal law enforcement authorities. Most every victim and suspect is connected to the drug-smuggling world, usually tracing back to the western Mexican state of Sinaloa, Phoenix police report.

Arizona has become the new drug gateway into the United States. Roughly half of all marijuana seized along the U.S.-Mexico border was taken on the state's 370-mile border with Mexico.


And:
Even if pot was legal these guys wouldnt give up the criminal life and suddenly become priests and nuns. They'll just find another controlled substance to sell. That will involve the same crime we're seeing here.

Yeah, I think I mentioned that. However, legalizing marijuana would remove one of the major profit sources of the ultra-violent Mexican drug gangs in particular, and no harm would be done to anyone by doing so.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:03 AM on February 16, 2009


You want to really stop the violence? Consolidate the 5 cartels. Bring them back under the control of a single organization, like back under Gallardo. The murders are the result of territory battles from 5 competing organizations. End the competition, you end the violence.

Once you do that, legalize and regulate drug use in the states, and allow the cartel to shift into a legitimate business. That will put further positive pressure on them, and turn them into a legitimate cash cow.

Will lots of bad people will get rich? Sure, but it'll also save thousands of lives and millions upon millions of dollars.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:04 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


leotrotsky is right, but it's worse than that.

You think Phoenix is bad? You should go talk to any Mexican, living in Mexico, to get a feel for how bad things are getting.

The most frustrating aspect of this whole thing is that there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, because the bad guys have more money, guns and motivation that the police or the army, and because demand for coke, meth, heroin, etc. from the U.S. is so mind-bendingly huge.

No matter how well-intentioned or noble you may be as a public official, customs agent or border guard, there is nothing you can do when some narco chieftain show up and says you have 3 minutes to make your choice: you either look the other way and get 150,000 usd/month in a Cayman Islands account, or you get to watch as five of his friends rape and murder your wife and daughters. Oh, and never mind talking to your boss, because HE gets 200,000. Offer you can't refuse, indeed. Then he owns you forever.

And, remember, all he wants to do is ship the stuff through Mexico to the U.S. It's all a question of geographical access. Mexican gangs may have begun to make meth, but this is mainly a distribution business for them. Supply and demand, dontchaknow.

If the governments of North America would decide that grownups get to do whatever they want with their bodies, worked out a way to minimize their impact on health care, and legalized the activities that millions of their citizens want to engage in, we would all be much better off.

Things would be complicated, yes. Very much so. They would take a while to settle down and make all the system work. But at least I wouldn't have to worry myself over what is going to happen tomorrow.
posted by Cobalt at 10:45 AM on February 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately for me, he needed a seven grand loan to make the transition possible -- but that's what friends are for...

You know, I've always thought it would be nice to get to know you better, jamstigator.
posted by nanojath at 11:13 AM on February 16, 2009


Arizona has become the new drug gateway into the United States.

"From there, you move on to even stronger states, like Nevada or Utah, or even California. If you'd ever seen what California can do to a man, you'd understand why I'm so fiercely anti-Arizona.

"Arizona is the match, Nevada is the fuse, California is the bomb."
posted by Pronoiac at 12:05 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fortunately Joe Arpaio is there to round up Mexican dishwashers. Otherwise, who knows how bad it could get?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:11 PM on February 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I wonder if "stand your ground" laws would make this unfortunate trend reverse itself? We derailed the thread a little bit, but the talk about the Mexican Drug War and the violence it spreads could potentially be contained if people in the southwest were able to protect themselves, right?

Yeah, that will work. There isn't any crime in Florida now, thanks to relaxed gun laws.
posted by bystander at 12:33 PM on February 16, 2009


At this point, it's effectively legal anyway, at least in the cities. If a cop pulls you over and finds an eighth in your pocket, unless you're in BFE while driving from outpost of civilization to outpost of civilization, he probably won't even bother with the paperwork to give you your misdemeanor ticket.

This isn't really as true as you might think. It may be true in the Northeastern Corridor and on the far West Coast, and a few enclaves here and there (Colorado, etc), but it's far from "the cities." Think Midwest, South, Southwest...you go to jail for possession in a lot of these places.

You think Phoenix is bad? You should go talk to any Mexican, living in Mexico, to get a feel for how bad things are getting.

Bingo
posted by jckll at 1:35 PM on February 16, 2009


As far as pot being the big cash cow, yeah; it's not that easy for your average schmuck to grow at home, and far more people use it than use meth/heroin/coke or the rest of the hard stuff.

Legalize it, create 1000s of growing jobs (and revitalize small farms!) and cut off a serious revenue stream for crime.

Getting past the "pot-smoking teens will die/kill thousands on our freeways!" fears are going to be hard, though.
posted by emjaybee at 2:50 PM on February 16, 2009


I have a friend in the gaming industry. He worked for a company in southern California.

WTF? Jamstigator, I gotta tell ya, I don't know what your friend was doing but I really have to question its legality. That is, not because I don't doubt your friend was thrilled to move to SF, but because hell man, I worked for the gaming industry (very large company) in southern California. San Diego, even.

And yeah, I saw a lot of meth, a lot of crackheads, and a lot of violence. First time I ever saw someone get tazed was at my former place of employment, a gaming venue in SD.

But I certainly didn't flee San Diego for SF! Nor did I ever feel like I was in any actual danger from drug cartels. I haven't ventured into TJ for over a year now, but that's just common sense.

Arizona has a lot of problems, including a rather nasty burst bubble in their housing industry. And the increase of violence on the Mexican side of the border was never going to stay on that side of the border--as previously noted, the challenge is to look at the whole picture, which isn't just 'those bad evil Mexican cartels' (who are VERY bad and evil, I grant you) but also the users.

My cynical side says that time will do the trick: eventually, somebody will climb to the top of the heap and some of the internecine battles will chill out. Ideally, though, we stop drug battles at their source: drug addicts. The question, of course, is how.
posted by librarylis at 6:54 PM on February 16, 2009


I live in Mexico, and you know, this stuff is kind of blown out of proportion. Yeah, there are a bunch of drug-related "executions", particularly in states that are home to a lot of drug cartels, but it's not like they're killing random people. The people who are killed are members of criminal organizations, or associated with them in some way.

Now, there's a kidnapping problem that does strike somewhat more randomly, but it's generally a problem for the richest 1-2% of the population, who of course use their near-complete control of the media to turn it into "Mexico's biggest problem", and organize huge protests where average people are duped into protesting something that will never affect them anyway, while the real problems of poverty and a corrupt justice system are ignored.

Hell, they're even talking about bringing back the death penalty. People think criminals generally get off easy, while in reality the justice system is incredibly non-functional and stacked against the defendant in almost all possible ways.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:04 AM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


OK, if a van pulls up, and two guys hop out with shotguns, they will shoot you dead while you fumble for your concealed weapon, as a lesson to others not to pull guns on kidnappers while they do their work.

Kidnapping is an ambush, by definition. They've got the drop on you. A glock in your waistband won't help, and will likely make you dead if you go for it.

This is the biggest problem with concealed-carry - it only works if someone isn't already aiming a weapon at you. If you're being mugged/kidnapped/etc, it won't do you much good.

It is useful for meeting an unequal threat, like a knife or broken beer bottle - but some pepper spray would do as good a job, and will likely not involve you in wrongful death lawsuits.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:11 AM on February 17, 2009


If you're being mugged/kidnapped/etc, it won't do you much good.

Except for the fact that if they kill you, their kidnap plan becomes a big waste of time.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:27 AM on February 17, 2009


There has been an increase in grow op busts in my area. I suspect the cops have suddenly become much better capable of identifying them.

Probably BC Hydro has installed more sophisticated neighbourhood power transformers. They did my section of the town last year, brand new box at every neighbourhood substation. I expect they've got a pretty good idea as to which neighbourhoods show power usage patterns consistent with an op: 12/12 cycling, heavy draw on the ballast, a particular noise signature.

Also, there seem to be a lot of dumb operators. Shooting off a rifle near the op? Duuuumb. Calling the cops after a B&E? Oh, so duuuuuumb. And so on. People that grow illegal drugs for profit aren't necessarily bright people. At the very least, they are people who engage in very risky behaviour, and that means more mistakes.

But, yes, legalisation. It's history all over again. It was a disaster, a stupid disaster of a plan last time. And it's just as disasterous this time. How many times are we going to slam our head into this brick wall of prohibition? Until everyone ever is locked up in jail?

Put the gazillions of dollars pissed away by the enforcement of victimless crime toward education programs and safety regulation and addiction support. Do it right and over the long term we start saving gazillions of dollars: education, regulation, and counselling are way cheaper than enforcement and emergency health care.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 PM on February 17, 2009


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