The tourists, who are from California and Nevada, were forced to pay $70 to $600 to be let out of police cars or to avoid going to jail, authorities said. A few Americans were forced to take money out of ATMs, said Al Anzaldua, chief of American citizen services at the consulate. One man was pushed up against a wall while his pockets were searched, Anzaldua said.
[Michael Wilson], 43, was visiting Tijuana in March and walking along Avenida Revolucion with a friend when two officers stopped them. The officers searched the pair and then held up two small packets, accusing them of having cocaine, Wilson said. The officers handcuffed the Americans and put the two in the back of the police car, warning that they were going to be jailed for at least three months, Wilson said. He said that he didn't have any cocaine and that the packets were planted.
City leaders have taken several steps recently to make Tijuana's streets safer, to rein in corrupt officers and to improve the Police Department's image. Cameras have been installed along Avenida Revolucion. Tijuana also is educating visitors about their rights, issuing a legal guide for tourists and urging them not to pay bribes to police.