Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Injustice

Street Dealers Fuel Spike In Violence In Tijuana


Tijuana newspapers have reported a recent spike in violent crime in the city. Street-level dealers are behind much of the violence, experts say.

More than 250 people have been killed in Tijuana so far in 2013. That’s a 25 percent increase compared to the same time span last year.

Between Monday and Tuesday of this week, local authorities registered seven homicides.

The spike comes shortly after American judicial authorities in San Diego declared the end of the Arellano-Felix drug trafficking organization. The Arellano-Felix group had ruled the drug trade in Tijuana and fueled much of the violence there.

But other traffickers have moved in to take over the business. Experts say the powerful Sinaloa cartel now largely controls the area. But it’s using a different method, said Tijuana journalist Vicente Calderón.

“The big drug trafficker organization used to have its own people working [in] the field,”Calderón said. “Now it looks like the big drug traffickers, the drug cartels, are kind of hiring local cells, like freelancers, that are moving drugs or selling drugs [in] the neighborhoods.”

Calderón said these street dealers are the perpetrators and victims of most of the violence in Tijuana these days. And they operate largely independently.

"[The cartels] don't give them as much protection, but at the same time, they don't have the same control over them," Calderón said.

Still, violent crime is much lower in the city than during its height from 2008 to 2010, when drug traffickers battled in the streets and hung bodies from bridges.

Experts have speculated that a truce among high-level traffickers is behind the relative calm in Tijuana. And spikes like the one this week could be anomalies.

Meanwhile, drug-fueled violence has moved to other parts of the country. The Tijuana newsweekly Zeta counts more than 8,000 killings related to organized crime in the five months since Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took office.

Mexican officials put the count at around 5,300, but Zeta and other Mexican media accuse the Peña Nieto administration of ignoring the violence and trying to push it off the front page.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.