The nature of crime in Mexico, and especially how law enforcement responds to it, disturbs American sensibilities. Nationally, only about 2 percent of cartel suspects arrested are brought to trial, according to a State Department cable published on Wikileaks in December.

Mexican state police handle the investigations of crimes, not such local authorities as Rocky Point police. No arrests have been made in the August murder at the Malecon, the fatal shooting of a Rocky Point taxi driver in January of this year, or even the shooting of the former Rocky Point police chief.

Lazaro Hernandez, Rocky Point's new director of public safety, tells New Times that the investigation is ongoing.

Curios stores, which cater to American tourists, are also faring poorly.
Jamie Peachey
Curios stores, which cater to American tourists, are also faring poorly.
Another day's catch without buyers.
Jamie Peachey
Another day's catch without buyers.

Details

New Times fellow Gregory Pratt provided some of the Spanish translation for this article.

"Only the ex-director knows what happened, and he's not saying," Hernandez says, seated behind a desk in his small office, a picture of his boss, the mayor, behind him. "He recovered and went back home."

Without a trace of irony he adds, "Maybe it was a jealous husband."

He says he's not concerned for his own safety and walks around town with his children. His mission is to make sure Rocky Point remains a safe destination for tourists, he says.

Any American who's scared to come to Rocky Point is loco, he says with a chuckle.

Only two Americans have died in Rocky Point in the past couple of years, he says — a motorcyclist who crashed after popping a wheelie, and a young woman who broke her neck in a ATV crash.

Local, state, and federal police provide a strong presence in town, and his department has received new vehicles and equipment in the past year to help keep order, he says.

Military forces also can be seen around town. A checkpoint manned by armed, fatigues-wearing soldiers, some in masks, greeted visitors arriving in Rocky Point from Highway 8 in February (though not in December).

Fausto Soto, the mayor's spokesman, says the Mexican Marines go where they feel they're needed, and right now, that obviously includes Rocky Point.

New Times also spotted the Marines driving around town in Humvees equipped with belt-fed machine guns and stationed at the new airport near the Mayan Palace.

According to Charles Bowden, author of a new book about Juárez called Murder City, Mexico's military is the last hope for fighting drug gangs. But, as he notes, "Mexico has never created a police unit that did not join the traffickers. Or die."


Geography helps protect Rocky Point from the worst smuggling-related crime.

That's obvious by checking a map: You don't need to travel through Rocky Point coming north from either Baja California or the mainland. No major smuggling routes through Rocky Point exist to fight over. Highway 8 and the town of Sonoyta, however, probably are used occasionally by the drug gangs.

Cartel members certainly can be found throughout the state of Sonora, including in the Rocky Point area, says Ramona Sanchez, spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Phoenix. The Sinaloan cartel, the Zetas, and the others "are still very much fighting for the lucrative smuggling routes and practice intimidation against the authorities. In Rocky Point, we haven't seen the flare-up. That has been elsewhere," she says.

If Rocky Point, Sonoyta, or Highway 8 began to experience a drastic uptick in cartel activity and violence, the DEA would work with the State Department to get the message out to the public, Sanchez says.

So far, the cartels and rip-off crews don't appear to be targeting Americans, U.S. authorities say.

"But with a higher murder rate, you are more likely to get caught in the crossfire," says the State Department source quoted earlier.

Rocky Point has been relatively peaceful, though "I don't want to say it's a bed of roses," the official says. "If, during the daytime, you're staying to the tourist areas, I think you're safe. Make sure people know where you're going and when you're getting back. Be very vigilant, and I highly recommend people to not come alone."

As mentioned, New Times didn't always follow such rules on the two trips taken for this article. And, from that experience, Rocky Point seems to be a Mexican tourist location where locals kindly offer directions (with no danger of decapitation).

Hostak, owner of Al Capone's Pizza, says he hasn't had a single safety problem in the four years he's lived in Rocky Point. Business-wise, though, he worries whether he'll survive another year or two at the current dismal rate that tourists are arriving. Downstairs, in the bar, only a few patrons are present on a Saturday afternoon.

"It just sucks, seeing a beautiful area like this not get used," he says. "It's sad that people live their lives in fear."

At the 130-unit Sonoran Sky resort, most condo units were going unused this winter. Scottsdale resident Jamie, who didn't want her last name used, was among five people hanging out at the Sky's Tiki beach bar, her teenage daughter and mother among them. They own a condo at the Sky and come to Rocky Point "six months out of the year," she says.

She's had a few tequilas, enjoying herself despite the scarcity of other guests.

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1 comments
Nikkidog
Nikkidog

Just heard when crossing the boarder into mexico, the mexicans are taking turkey, steaks, hamburger meat and dog food from the Americans.  Not a very good thing to be doing when it's Thanksgiving and a lot of people will be going down there.

 
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