Cross border kidnappingsPosted: Updated:
While kidnappings rampant in Mexico especially on the border and families fleeing to the U.S. side will the kidnappers also follow? A private investigator in El Paso says it's happening now.
Jay J. Armes is a colorful private investigator in El Paso whose office looks like the set of a 60s television spy show. He told us he's working on 70 cases. Most are Mexican families he says but according to Armes, 14 involve U.S.citizens abducted on the Texas side of the border.
It's hard to know exactly what's happening since victims won't take to the media. Fear also keeps many families from reporting these crimes to law enforcement. The FBI in El Paso says there are a "handful" of kidnappings reported (3-5 a year) but no recent surge in activity. The new El Paso Sheriff (and former Police Chief) Richard Wiles confirmed there have been people nabbed on this side of the border and taken to Mexico in the past. He said they usually involved a U.S. citizen tied to the drug trade
Tracking a cross border abduction is difficult. "Did they go to Juarez and disappear? Were they taken from El Paso and taken across the bridge? explained Wiles. "You just don't know. So it's kind of hard to get a handle on just how big the problem is."
Armes says his current clients are worried about kidnappings for ransom. Some have fled to the U.S. to avoid the threat. But they remain worried about the infamous "cajuelazo" where kidnappers put someone in a trunk and drive across the border into Mexico. The FBI in San Diego investigated several cases involving Americans taken to Tijuana last year and held for ransom. Victims are carefully targeted based on their ability to pay.
Armes' son Jay J. Armes III sells security equipment to people in law enforcement and increasingly individuals worried about their personal safety. Among the popular offerings: GPS tracking devices to use in Juarez, "just like a James bond movie you log on to the computer put in your user name and password and a map of U.S. or the city and state that the unit is active in appears and you can see it moving on the map." explained the younger Armes.
It's just one sign of the growing concern about kidnapping, the shadowy silent crime that some fear won't stop at the border.