Murder Rate in Mexican Border City Spikes from Cartel Violence

The murder rate in the Mexican border city of Tijuana spiked with a record-breaking number of murders. The number of murders climbed as drug cartels battle over control of key drug trafficking routes and the control of the lucrative street-level drug distribution business in the region. The escalating violence in the large border city can be attributed primarily to the hostilities between the Sinaloa Cartel and their one-time ally, Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG).

In recent days, the number of murders in Tijuana for the year surpassed 1,500 after the city saw six murders in a seven-hour period, local news outlets reported. 

The murder victims included one man who was shot inside a home. Two other men who were also wounded but survived the attack. In a separate case, three different victims were left throughout the city — all showing similar methods of torture and murder. The victims had all been shot in the head, had their hands and feet tied, and were wrapped in blankets. The last murder dealt with the discovery of a severed human leg. That victim’s body has yet to be found. 

The escalating number of murders in Tijuana surpassed 1,500 well before the end of the year. This reveals a dramatic spike when compared to the previous record-setting year in 2016 when only 910 were recorded. According to the San Diego Tribune, the 2016 figure had been alarming at the time since it had broken the 2008 record of 844 murders. 

As the cartel-fueled turf-wars continue to rage, the spike in murders places Tijuana as one of the leading cities in homicides for 2017. According to Frontera.Info, the spike in murders is fueled by the turf wars between cartel-connected gangs who handle the street level distribution of drugs. Another reason behind the spike in violence deals with Tijuana being one of the main drug trafficking areas that fuel the U.S. drug market in California. The city also serves as a hub for distribution into other major cities throughout the nation.

According to statements made by State Attorney General Perla del Socorro Ibarra Leyva, only 10-12 percent of the 1,500 homicide investigations this year led to indictments. While police officials have rounded up 5,000 suspects tied to drug trafficking and drug distribution, less than 10 percent have been prosecuted. The lack of prosecution is partially from a lack of personnel as well as recent judicial reforms that changed the way court cases are handled in Mexico. While the reform was meant to promote judicial transparency, it has also led to suspects being released faster after their initial arrest and very few of them being held until trial. 

Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.)


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