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Posts Tagged ‘Unofficial Mexican toll booth’

The Shakedown

28 Mar

Well, we’ve heard all the warnings about traveling through Mexico; from the State Department’s official website, to the constant news reports of drug violence on TV, as well as from friends and family who share this sentiment and think we’re nuts.  Sure, there’s some major problems along the border towns, but for the most part its drug on drug violence and they do not target tourist.  Traveling is never safe and it never will be, but you’re more likely to get in an accident within ten miles of your home than you are traveling abroad.  Plus iff you look at the statistics there is more violent crime per capita in the USA than any other place in the world.  Mexico is #12th.

Life is risky and its dangerous just walking outside your door everyday, but with risk comes reward.  When we travel we take precautions, keep our eyes open, minimize our exposure by keeping valuables secured and watch each others backs.  It only takes one incident to learn your lesson, so we’ve already had our wake up call and have made adjustments.  Sure, we’ve had a stolen bike seat here, a pair of flip flops missing there, but we’ve had our closest call in San Diego, so it can happen anywhere.  The scariest part about that “smash and grab” of my laptop in San Diego is that we were sleeping in the RV just upstairs and still couldn’t do a thing about it.  And this happened in broad daylight at 9:00 on a Sunday morning in a nice neighborhood.  These crack smokers were able to smash the driver’s side window and jump half way into the rig and grab the strap of my laptop bag all within seconds.  Although, given one more second that punk would be missing a hand, since I sleep with a machete under my pillow and I more than happy to use it.  I have since added a slingshot to my arsenal and a zip lock baggie full of perfectly round rocks for the next thief who has the huevos to flip me off while making their escape.

Smash and Grab

Smash and Grab

The reason I bring this up is because after 2 months of traveling through Mexico we’ve never really had a problem or felt unsafe.  A stolen bike seat was our biggest loss and being a cyclist I was way more upset about my seat than my laptop, because it wasn’t a normal size seat post and would be nearly impossible to replace while in Mexico.  I made due by tying my tennis shoe over the post’s stub to prevent a catastrophe if I happened to slip a pedal.  Anyway, as we were traveling north we came across an “unofficial” toll booth in the last large town of Hermosillo, Mexico.  We were at a stop light and as the light turned green we were taking off with the rest of the traffic, a man in a yellow reflective vest jumps out in front of us and motions for us to pull over.  I see his beat up, non-descript white van on the side of the road with some unofficial looking type on the hood “transito policia”, but it’s missing a couple letters, so I’m immediately suspicious.  The man pictured below comes up to my window and asks for my driver’s license.

Hermosillo, Mexico Hiway Robbery

Hermosillo, Mexico Hiway Robbery

At first he tells me that we were speeding.  Anyone who’s ever driven an RV knows that they’re not known for their jack rabbit starts and we were well behind the rest of the pack of cars, so that’s his first lie.  He then tells me that I wasn’t wearing my seat belt, but I had just unbuckled it to go and get my driver’s license at his request, lie #2.  I hand him my license thinking he’s just going to hit us up for a few bucks, which he immediately does.  He tells me that the price for “not” wearing my seat belt in Spanish is $–.  I tell him I do not understand $– and then he writes $70 in the air.  I ask Jen to grab some pesos from the lock box.  I fold up a $100 peso ($8.30 US) and try to hand it to him.  He refuses and says another number $— in Spanish.  I tell him I do not speak Spanish, so this time he writes $750 on the back of his metal ticket box.  I’m not even sure we have that much in pesos, since we just filled up with gas and we intentionally didn’t want to be left with a bunch of pesos before we crossed the border.

Hermosillo, Mexico Shakedown

Hermosillo, Mexico Shakedown

Now Jen starts to get upset, because she realizes that we’re getting ripped off.  As soon as she starts to raise her voice he immediately says in perfect English that she wasn’t wearing her seat belt either and the fine is now $1,000 pesos.  We argue that we were wearing them, and then he tells us he doesn’t speak English.  He tells us we must go down to the police station to pay the fine and retrieve my driver’s license.  I ask him “cuando, donde?”  As the argument is escalating I notice that he is looking all around the inside of the RV.  He is peaking his head into the cab and looks in my lap, at my feet and inside the ash tray an in the back.  I don’t know if he trying to catch us on some potentially bigger violation or if he’s just looking for something he may want to take as a bribe.

Hermosillo, Mexico ticket

Hermosillo, Mexico ticket

After I notice this peculiar behavior I take a closer look at him and realize he’s not wearing a badge, a name tag or any sort of official police uniform.  Upon closer inspection I notice that he’s not carrying a gun, his radar gun doesn’t work, because there are no lights on and his “official” looking tool belt contains nothing more than a mag flash light and could be purchased at any Army Surplus store.  I then ask him for some ID.  When he refuses I whisper to Jen to grab my camera, which is locked away in the back.  As he’s writing out the ticket I snap few shots of him just because there is no other way to identify him if he take off with my driver’s license.  Right then I noticed an RV driving by, I try, but cannot get their attention.  I get out of the RV hoping there’s a caravan of RV coming who might be able to help.  Frustrated, he asks me to sign the ticket.  I scribble a sig on the line and he hands me back my driver’s licenses.  Not trusting him enough to turn my back I walk sideways keeping an eye on him as I walk back to the RV.  I waste no time leaving.  We both breathe a deep sigh of relief as we drive away without so much as a peso lost.  To this day I’m still not too sure if he was legit or not, but I suspect not.

 

Violent crime statistics

Violent crime statistics