HomeNewsAnalysisSurge in Tijuana Violence Recalls Past Bloodshed
ANALYSIS

Surge in Tijuana Violence Recalls Past Bloodshed

HOMICIDES / 19 OCT 2016 BY PATRICK CORCORAN EN

Tijuana's murder rate has spiked dramatically in recent months, leaving officials searching for reasons and responses to an emerging security crisis in Mexico's northern border city.

As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune and other outlets, 2016 has been more violent than any recent year for the Baja California border city. Through the first nine months of the year, authorities had registered 636 murders. This puts it on a pace for 848 murders in the whole of the year, which, according to the Tribune's statistics, would narrowly break the 2010 record of 844, the most violent year in recent memory.

Mexico's statistical agency, Inegi, shows higher numbers, with more than 1,119 murders in 2009 and 1,256 in 2010. (Retroactive increases in the murder rate are common from Inegi, which compiles a more exhaustive record.) In any event, there is little dispute that Tijuana has suffered a precipitous decline in its security situation relative to the past couple of years, and that it is on its way to its most blood-soaked year since the height of the administration of former President Felipe Calderon (2006-2012).

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Homicides

Local leaders from various realms have attempted to spur a response, demonstrating a degree of foresight often lacking amid bouts of violence, but thus far they have yet to settle on a concrete strategy. Instead, per the Union-Tribune's reporting, they have focused on shortcomings in the current approach to security, including an inattention to drug addiction, a lack of collaboration among the three levels of government, and the inability to target gangs' financial structures.

InSight Crime Analysis

The rise in murders may be due to an ongoing shift in the city's criminal dynamics. In the 1990s, the Arellano Felix family built one of the hemisphere's most powerful drug trafficking organizations, the Tijuana Cartel, on the back of its control of the city. While it had a reputation for brutality, the group's control brought some measure of stability; Tijuana only averaged about 200 killings a year during the 1990s, according to Inegi.

But the Arellano Felix family's decline since the mid-2000s has vaulted the city into a period of sporadic chaos. The spate of killings in 2009 and 2010 was largely the result of the Sinaloa Cartel working with a former Arellano Felix lieutenant, Teo García, to take control of the city.


A brief consolidation of power by the Jalisco Cartel, rather than a prolonged struggle by a Sinaloa Cartel in decline, could actually help curb the rising violence in Tijuana.


 The Sinaloa Cartel appears to be losing its grip on the territory, however, with Mexican officials speculating that the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation has moved into the city. Some analysts have reported that the Jalisco Cartel, which was formed in the aftermath of former Sinaloa kingpin Ignacio Coronel's death, is now working with rump elements of the Tijuana Cartel to push Sinaloa Cartel loyalists out of the city. Analysts have also pointed to the Jalisco Cartel's movement into Baja California Sur, the state comprising the southern half of the Baja California peninsula, which appears to be part of the broader expansion that also includes Tijuana.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Tijuana has an annual murder rate of approximately 50 per 100,000 residents. While this is far from the worse manifestation of Mexican violence --in Juárez in 2010, for instance, the figure was almost six times that high-- it also speaks to the potential for worsening if the causes of the uptick in homicides are not addressed.

In Juárez, some combination of the naturally emerging stabilization of the local drug trade and the aggressive tactics of local police chief Julián Leyzaola brought about the dramatic improvement in the early part of this decade. Opinions vary, but the improvement probably had more to do with the former than the latter. This suggests that a brief consolidation of power by the Jalisco Cartel, rather than a prolonged struggle by a Sinaloa Cartel in decline, could actually help curb the rising violence in Tijuana. 

The various attributes of the area make it of perennial importance to the nation's best-known drug gangs. A city of approximately 1.7 million, Tijuana is the largest city on the US-Mexico border, and by far the largest conduit to the US West Coast. This makes it the perfect weigh station for Mexican drugs headed for consumers in California. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

MEXICO / 9 DEC 2011

With the second seizure of a large-scale radio system belonging to Mexico’s Zetas, it’s clear that the group has established…

MEXICO / 29 APR 2011

Benjamin Arellano Felix, alias "El Señor," a leader of Mexico's Tijuana Cartel, has been extradited to the…

HUMAN SMUGGLING / 7 FEB 2011

In a phenomenon that has United States border officials scratching their heads, a record wave of immigrants from India have…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.