Monday, March 02, 2009

ATF Special Agent in Charge Cautions Travelers Headed to Mexico

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- John A. Torres, special agent in charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Los Angeles Field Division, issued a statement today cautioning college students planning on traveling to Mexico for spring break. Torres is concerned about travelers' personal safety and is cautioning them to avoid the temptation to bring firearms across the border.

Torres is troubled about the recent violence plaguing Mexico and is concerned about the safety of U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico, particularly college students making spring break trips to local border towns. "I know that spring break is a rite of passage for many college students, however I would discourage traveling to places like Tijuana and Rosarito due to drug cartel violence affecting those areas," said Torres. "If they do decide to go, they should be sure and follow the information provided by the State Department in a recent Travel Alert," added Torres. The cities of Tijuana and Rosarito are both popular destinations for San Diego area college students and have recently experienced violence perpetrated by drug cartels.

A recent State Department Travel Alert advises U.S. citizens going to Mexico to travel on main highways during daylight hours. Travelers are advised to stay in well known tourist areas of the cities and avoid areas where prostitution and drug dealing may occur. Travelers should also avoid displaying expensive-looking jewelry and large amounts of cash.

Torres wants the public to know that ATF is actively working in partnership with local firearms dealers through its "Don't Lie For The Other Guy" campaign to prevent the straw purchase of firearms. A straw purchase is where a legal purchaser fills out the required paperwork to obtain a firearm and then gives that firearm to somebody that is not legally able to posses it. This type of scheme has been used by drug trafficking organizations and they have paid straw buyers as young as their late teens and early 20s to accomplish the purchases.

"I want potential straw buyers to be put on notice that ATF is currently dedicating large resources to investigate this criminal activity and any evidence of wrongdoing uncovered will be turned over to the United States Attorney's Office for prosecution," said Torres. "I realize that in these tough economic times the promise of money by firearms traffickers may be tempting, but remember the old adage, 'crime doesn't pay,'" added Torres.

In San Diego, ATF has increased its enforcement activity involving firearms trafficked to Mexico. Through the Project Gunrunner initiative, ATF has a group of agents dedicated to solely combating this type of criminal activity. Firearms recovered by law enforcement in Mexico are routinely traced by ATF to determine their origin. The vast majority of the firearms recovered originate in the United States, with many coming from California.

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