Mexico’s drug gangs are turning to kidnappings to replace lucrative drug smuggling as law-enforcement authorities pursue the largest anti-drug-trafficking effort ever, McClatchy Newspapers report. Corporate security experts estimate that drug gangs are responsible for 30 to 50 kidnappings a day in Mexico; ransoms often run to $300,000 if the victim is returned alive. They often hold several victims at a time. “The narco-kidnappers are not looking for chump change,” said Felix Batista, a Miami corporate-security consultant who’s negotiated the releases of dozens of Mexican kidnapping victims.
The phenomenon is spilling into the United States. Phoenix police investigated 350 kidnappings last year, a 40 percent increase from the year before. Most are tied to crackdowns in Mexico, said a police detective. The rise in kidnapping prompted a warning from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City about dangers Americans might face. “Dozens of U.S. citizens were kidnapped and/or murdered in Tijuana in 2007,” across from San Diego, said the April 15 advisory. “Public shootouts have occurred during daylight hours near shopping areas.”