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Mexican drug related violence is a serious threat
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According to news reports, some 18,000 people in Mexico have been killed in drug-related violence since December 2006. This is an astounding toll on human life, and there appears to be no hope for a reduction anytime soon. This killings are attributed to the Mexican government's crackdown on the illegal manufacturing and distribution of drugs and on the gangs involved in these activities. Of these 18,000 deaths, most are the result of fights between rival gangs and among smugglers battling each other for territory and the illegal drug market. There are occasional victims struck by stray bullets and some are cases of mistaken identity. Numerous other people have simply vanished with no trace, while the number of those injured or maimed from violent, drug-related attacks cannot even be counted.

The purpose of this column is two-fold: first, it is a warning to United States that Mexico's violence can and is spreading into our communities; the second is some common sense ideas for making travel into Mexico as safe as possible.

The violence occurring in Mexico is of significant concern to American law enforcement, and it should be for our population as a whole. Those committing violent crimes in Mexico also have established roots and ties in this country. Many of them travel back and forth between the two countries, while others are established here with close ties to their "parent" organizations in Mexico.

Although we are not likely to see the same amount of violence as in Mexico, if we let down our guard, our communities will experience an increased number of violent acts too. It is already apparent that 1930's Prohibition-era style "gangland" shootings are taking place in U.S. communities, but fortunately, the number of incidents pale in comparison to what is happening in the Mexican. We must do everything legally permissible to stamp out criminal gangs here in our communities, or else face the problems, albeit on a smaller scale, as what Mexico is experiencing. The public must give law enforcement its full support as its members work to identify and arrest these violent criminals, and the politicians need to direct the necessary funding and resources in support of the effort.

Mexico's violence-related statistics are staggering, yet there is also a different side to this issue. I have many American acquaintances who regularly travel into Mexico for fishing trips, paragliding, kite surfing, scuba diving, and a host of other recreational and tourist activities in Mexico. They tell me that they feel safe in Mexico - in some instances, they have felt safer there than here in California. However, their safety is achieved by not lingering in any of the border cities, where most all of the drug-related violence is taking place, like Tijuana, Mexicali, Cuidad Juarez, Matamoras, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey. They make a point of traveling through quickly.

To give you an idea of how the violence is affecting American tourists visiting Mexico, last year 79 American citizens were killed there. In 2007, 29 Americans were killed in Mexico as a result of what is believed to be bystanders hit in the crossfire between rival drug cartels. These statistics strongly suggest that Americans on tour in Mexico, for whatever purpose, should not make unnecessary stops or otherwise linger in these border towns. Some tips to help remain safe include the absolute not driving at night. It is best to travel in groups and, if possible, go with others who are familiar with your destination and the route to get to it. Scan your passport and travel documents and e-mail them to yourself or save them on your computer. That way, if your documents are lost or stolen you can easily access copies. Take your bank or credit card international telephone numbers with you (the 1-800 numbers used in the United States do not work in Mexico). Provide people "back home" with details of your travel plans and consider some pre-arranged code words in the event that you end up with some problems. Do not bring jewelry, fancy vehicles or other valuables not necessary for your trip activities. Do not allow your vehicle to run out of fuel (keep at least a half tank full at all times) and make sure that your vehicle is in good mechanical condition with good tires, especially.

For sure, Mexico sounds like a daunting place at this time, and we in the United States must not allow the drug cartels to play out their full-fledged wars here in our communities, our streets and our neighborhoods. As for traveling through Mexico, one need not fear the entire country, as its majority population is made up of decent people who are as much against the violence as any of us here. For more Mexico travel safety information, you can visit