About a year ago, a good friend in Tijuana took his two young sons to a taco stand for a mid-morning meal. When he returned to his mini-van about 15 minutes later, he discovered that his battery had been stolen. A couple of months later, another battery was stolen from the same vehicle as it sat parked outside my friend's home. His solution: use a heavy-duty chain and a padlock to prevent thieves from opening the hood of his car. And it worked.
At the time, he said battery theft was a form of organized crime in Tijuana — a lucrative business for thieves, who re-sell them at prices that should seem too good to be true. I had my doubts, but a recent police report seems to have proved him right.
According to the city's department of public safety, police arrested four battery thieves last week in or near downtown Tijuana. Between them, police said, they had stolen a total of 16 batteries. Officers said they caught the thieves red-handed after some of their victims, who witnessed the crimes, called 066 — the Tijuana equivalent of 911.
About 10 p.m. on April 1, officers responding to the calls stopped a vehicle in downtown Tijuana matching witness descriptions — a gray Jeep Grand Cherokee with the Baja license plate BGR2367. Inside the Jeep, police reported, they found six stolen batteries. Arrested and turned over to state prosecutors were Michael Castañeda Rodríguez and Vanessa García López.
In the wee hours of the following morning, according to a statement from the department of public safety, officers captured another pair of alleged battery thieves who had loaded 10 stolen batteries into a taxi and tried to make good their get-away after breaking into a business called New Batteries in the Colonia Marrón neighborhood — about eight blocks from downtown.
Arrested at about 5:45 a.m. on April 2 were Margarito García Méndez and José Hernández Hernández. The pair allegedly forced the lock at New Batteries to get inside the business.