Crime scene investigation in Tijuana. Crime scene investigation in Tijuana.

The reasons behind Tijuana’s new violence

This is shaping up to be the worst year since 2010

Reprinted from InSight Crime


The beginning of 2017 has brought a striking increase in violence to Tijuana, Mexico, and the surrounding region, as competition between different criminal groups has put the key border city on a path for its bloodiest year since 2010.

State authorities from Baja California, in which Tijuana is located, have reported that 208 people were murdered in the border city during the first two months this year, a potentially historic homicide rate that represents a vast increase over the murder rate seen in recent years.

While the government statistics agency has not yet published its final tally of homicides last year, reliable reports replace the figure around 700. Should the current pace be maintained throughout the year, Tijuana would end up with nearly 1,300 murders, an increase of almost 85% in a single year.

Since 1990, the first year for which official data is publicly available, Tijuana has only surpassed 1,000 murders twice, in 2009 (1,118 murders) and 2010 (1,256).

The violence in Tijuana is driving a region-wide increase in killings. The local magazine Zeta recently reported 385 murders in all of Baja California from December 1, 2016 through February 22, 2017 — more than 80% of which occurred in Tijuana.

According to Mexico’s National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP), across the state there were 129 murders in January 2017, an increase of nearly 50% from January 2016.


InSight Crime Analysis

The current chaos in Tijuana is the product of both short-term and long-term factors. In the latter category, Tijuana’s underworld since 2008 has essentially shifted toward an equilibrium that is both more violent and more volatile than in years past.

From 1990 to 2007, a typical year would bring perhaps 250 murders. The city never experienced any wild swings that have since become typical; the highest total during that period was 380 murders, and the murder rate fluctuated within a comparatively narrow band. Not coincidentally, this period corresponded with the hegemony of the Arellano Félix Organization, also known as the Tijuana Cartel.

That group’s collapse left Tijuana far more vulnerable. Since 2008, Tijuana’s average annual murder rate has been closer to 700, and has swung wildly according to the vicissitudes within the local criminal landscape. Even during its most tranquil recent years — it registered just 321 murders in 2012 — there has never been a sense that any stability was enduring, but rather a fleeting moment of calm before the violence inevitably returned.

The long-term shift toward a more volatile criminal backdrop has combined with a handful of proximate causes. As InSight Crime reported in October, remnants of the Tijuana Cartel have joined forces in Baja California Sur, which borders Baja California, with the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG), to fight the Sinaloa Cartel.

This new alliance, which calls itself the Tijuana Cartel Next Generation, is likely battling the Sinaloa Cartel in Tijuana as well. This squares with recent reports that the CJNG has moved into Tijuana.

A report from the news website Animal Político in December pointed to a split between several local cells as the driver of the violence: one side called El Chan, El Jorquera and El Kieto operate with the Tijuana Cartel; cells known as El Aquiles and El Tigre represent the Sinaloa Cartel. The same report also highlighted the increased presence of the CJNG in Tijuana.

In an interview with InSight Crime, Nathan Jones, an assistant professor of security studies at Sam Houston State University, pointed to U.S. immigration policies as an additional factor, flooding the border with criminal actors.

“U.S. felony deportations have had a disproportionate impact on border cities such as Tijuana, where the price to have someone killed was 2,000 pesos [a little over $100] in 2016,” Jones said.

Local authorities also attribute a huge number of the murders to the retail drug market. Because retail drug dealers are often used as proxies in larger cartel disputes, these reports are consistent with the versions that have the Sinaloa Cartel fighting to retain influence over a major border crossing against an alliance of CJNG and Tijuana Cartel forces.

It does not appear that the federal government has planned much in the way of a response. Zeta recently reported that 300 soldiers are on their way, a small number in such a big city, particularly when the primary challenge appears to be not hunting fugitives (something at which the military has grown quite adept), but rather pacifying neighborhoods (a labor-intensive task the military has never done as well, even with a robust deployment of soldiers).

Should this violence persist, Tijuana will need not half-measures but comprehensive plans of action that mobilize various sectors of society. According to Jones, who conducted much of his doctoral fieldwork in Tijuana and published a book on the matter, the concentration of the current violence has complicated efforts to build a response to the uptick in bloodshed.

“Much of the violence is between retail drug sellers and thus the business class has not pushed the state as they did in 2007-2010,” he said.

This is unfortunate, and shortsighted. Countless examples from recent history show that disputes that originate among criminal rivalries can spill out of those boundaries and threaten the broader public, at which point getting control of the situation is a much more daunting task.

Patrick Corcoran is a contributing writer at InSight Crime, a foundation dedicated to the study of organized crime, which it describes as the principal threat to national and citizen security in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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  • Güerito

    The same reason violence is up in Los Cabos, the Riviera Maya, and other tourists locations in Guerrero, Colima, and Sinaloa. And also rising in Guanajuato, Chihuahua and (of course) Veracruz. And we can’t trust the murder stats from Michoacán, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas so they must be up, too.

  • K. Chris C.

    How’s that CIA serving “drug war” going?!

    An American citizen, not US subject.

  • SickofLiberalbs9999

    “This is shaping up to be the worst year since 2010.”
    200 murders in 60 days? A “historic” homicide rate? And not a whimper from the Mexican public?

    No marches for security, demands for justice, protests to end corruption, rallies against violence……….? Nope.
    Meanwhile, Mexican national hysteria continues as citizens stay focused on the REAL threat to their security –

    • TigreBlanco

      Enough of the ignorant posts.

      • SickofLiberalbs9999

        I’m quoting Mexico’s statistics and you call that ignorant?
        I wish they were not true.

    • AM

      Soo, what do you care? If you really cared you would do everything in your power to stop the guns and bulk cash from crossing the US border into Mexico. You should also help to rehabilitate your junkie country. Please don’t pretend like you care. We can give two cents about Trump…he’s your problem now.

      • SickofLiberalbs9999

        My family is in Mexico, clown.
        And I hardly can rehab my country – what an idiotic statement.
        And if you’re Mexican – tell me it’s not true that Mexicans are hysterical over Trump. Far, far more upset than they are about their own country’s problems.

        • AM

          I am Mexican – Tambien te puedo hablar en Espanol si quieres, culero analfabeto! – And yes, we don’t like Trump. We hardly give him the time of day now because, as it turns out, he’s not just bad for Mexico and the US, he is bad for the world. At this time, I think the Koreans, Russians, Chinese, Iranians, Syrians, and Iraqis are hysterical about Trump. Your powerful, mighty, advanced, well-funded army can’t even win a war in dust-bowl Iraq LOL. How’s it going in Yemen by the way??

          Side note: Thank you for making me think about these things. I almost forgot your army is starting a war in Yemen. Is Trump going to make Mexico pay for that war too?? Lol – I couldn’t help it 🙂

          It’s interesting that you think helping to rehabilitate your endemic junkie population is an “idiotic” endeavor. It just proves that you don’t really care about the issues, and the complicated maneuvering it takes in order to engender real solutions for the people. But none of that matters to you right….

          People like you only care about what is easy. You want to blame the rest of the world for your deficiencies. Basically, people like you only want to scapegoat and feel superior to Mexicans. But that’s ok, you don’t know any better. It makes sense because you are a product of a country that has been defined by slavery since its inception. Oh, but you guys never called it slavery, right? What would you guys call it again? Of course you have no idea, so I’ll tell you – “Your Peculiar Institution” was all the rage back then. Know yourself before you start talking about other people, and even then, be humble.

          What a mess – Made in America – Viva Trump! lmao.

          • csb4546

            You are deranged and out of control
            I live in Mexico, I know exactly what I’m talking about.
            I’m married to a Mexican, I have Mexican children, I love Mexico and Mexicans. So try another angle, snowflake.
            I don’t defend America – it’s corrupt and violent, too.

    • Crewlaw

      “…Mexican national hysteria…”? Over Trump? That’s funny.
      It is easy to see by your posts that you are just looking for any excuse to criticize Mexican people(and where your family is doesn’t matter, self-hating Mexicans exist) as if it is the fault of the average man or woman in the street that there are drug gangs and corrupt politicians, and if only they were better people who spent more time marching and protesting then these problems wouldn’t exist, but I’m sure a person like you can find plenty to sneer at without making stuff up.

      • SickofLiberalbs9999

        Your preference is silence and acceptance of the current security conditions as “normal”?
        My family is endangered by the deterioration of law and order in Mexico – so am I.
        I continually call for Mexicans to wake up before their country is lost forever to the corruption/violence.
        And all I get is hate for speaking up.
        I love Mexico and the Mexican people – which includes my family and my friends in Mexico.
        Look at the constant flow of stories of corruption and violence – new stories every day on these pages.
        How does a country get this far down the road to corruption from top-to-bottom?
        I cannot conceive of a realistic solution, can you?
        I’m scared to death about Mexico’s future – it’s my future and my family’s future.
        I guess it’s yours, too. Aren’t we actually on the same side?

  • SickofLiberalbs9999

    “It does not appear that the federal government has planned much in the way of a response.”
    Duck and cover doesn’t qualify as a plan?

  • WestCoastHwy

    InSight Crime Analysis being a foundation, must be procuring Federal Grants; now that’s good business. With that said, let us focus on the mind set of the parties involved……

    Mexicans, more Mexicans, several more Mexicans…..maybe some foreign influences. The last time I was in TJ, the only other peoples I saw were Somalian Refugees hanging out at an Oxxo near Revolution Blvd., everybody else were Mexicans. During that same time I also visited my favorite city, San Diego were I saw……every nationality under the Sun all happily engaging in an Open Market (next year retail Cannabis will be available); even Mexican buy up everything they could get their hands on!

    How can that be? What does inSight Crime Analysis say about that? Obviously, it’s a Mexican Cultural thing that is solidly apart of Mexicans daily routine……..Rape and Pillage. Instead of allowing People to freely conduct business in a friendly business environment, Mexican would just feel happy in their pigsties with nothing said.

    Until that day (whatever that day is), Mexico will continue breeding this Criminal Gang Culture without abatement.

  • Pesobill

    Wow TJ a crime ghetto ? Who would have thought ? jajaja.. The crime wave will continue in Mexico and get worse ..