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Rosarito Beach begins issuing bilingual citations

January 2, 2009 |  3:54 pm

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If there's one thing visitors to Rosarito Beach no longer have to worry about -- if the plan is implemented smoothly -- it's confusion regarding traffic citations issued by local police.

The long-popular haven for surfers, fishermen and other outdoors enthusiasts is largely deserted these days because of the unrelenting war between drug cartels throughout northern Baja California.

Hugo Torres, mayor of Rosarito Beach, has taken many steps to alleviate visitors' fears. He has expelled corrupt officers, bolstered police ranks and created a citizens' watch group and a special tourist police force.

The latest measure, now in effect, is the issuing of bilingual traffic tickets. The city also now allows visitors the option of paying fines by mail. This is designed to make tourists feel less intimidated by police officers when they're pulled over.

"Before it was necessary to follow an officer to a station to pay the fine," Torres said. "Now in most cases they can simply be mailed in."

On concerns about bribery, Torres added, "A traffic fine can never be paid directly to an officer, and we ask that people report to us the name and badge number of any officer that requests that they do so, or any that does not offer them the option of receiving a bilingual ticket."

Bilingual tickets are being issued by tourist police and regular city police to motorists who commit an infraction within city jurisdiction. The tickets list amounts owed for each offense and instructions for paying by mail.

Motorists can still appeal a ticket.

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Bilingual tickets are strictly limited to within Rosarito Beach city limits and may not apply on the transpeninsular highway, where state or federal police have jurisdiction.

Laura Wong, president of the Rosarito Convention & Visitors Bureau, has stressed that the drug-related killings generally involve rivals and occur well beyond tourist zones late at night.

Wong also reminds tourists that last year's spring break, Memorial Day and July 4 periods, as well as the Rosarito-to-Ensenada bike ride, "went smoothly and without any serious incident involving any of our many visitors."

-- Pete Thomas

Top photo: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

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