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Tijuana Homicides Reach Record Level In 2016

Above: Grave markers rise in a Tijuana cemetery, Nov. 2, 2014.

Aired 1/5/17 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Tijuana Homicides Reach Record Level In 2016

GUEST:

Octavio Rodriguez, program coordinator, Justice in Mexico Project at University of San Diego

Transcript

Tijuana was the site of more than 900 homicides in 2016, Baja California’s attorney general said Monday. That makes 2016 the most violent year in Tijuana's history.

The previous record was 844 killings in 2008. The increase in killings is due, in part, to fighting between the rising Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel for control of the cross-border drug trade in Tijuana.

The city has been struggling since 2008 to rebuild its reputation around culinary arts and innovation in manufacturing. Rising violence could represent a setback in terms of Tijuana's ability to attract tourists and investors.

"The key challenge for Tijuana's authorities and city leaders is that they've spent a great deal of effort in trying to establish Tijuana as a safe and vibrant city," said David Shirk of the University of San Diego's Justice in Mexico initiative. "It's very disheartening to see those efforts sullied by a resurgence of this violence."

The new homicide rate — 45 per 100,000 people — makes it one of Mexico's most dangerous cities.

The main difference between killings in 2016 and killings in 2008 is visibility. Eight years ago, downtown restaurants and bars were regular scenes of violence. Now, killings are concentrated in the outskirts of Tijuana, in low-income neighborhoods.

Shirk said officials need to change their focus from the drug war toward improving the economy.

"At the end of the day, if you’re not doing something to get young men who are 18 to 30 years old to be gainfully and happily employed and to have a sense of duty and responsibility in their communities, you will not have peace," he said.

December was the most violent month of the year, with 112 homicides. In 2015, homicides in Tijuana totaled 652. The city's rising violence is part of a nationwide trend. Last year was Mexico's most violent since Enrique Peña Nieto became president.

Jose Maria Ramos, a public affairs investigator at Mexico's border research institute Colef, said Tijuana's new administration needs to increase collaboration with civic associations. He said the strategy worked to reduce Juarez's homicides significantly in recent years.

"The civic participation is not being seen in Tijuana," he said, adding that it is key for reducing corruption and impunity.

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