Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Mexico's Drug-Related Homicides Are Down But Not In Tijuana

Mexico's Drug-Related Homicides Are Down But Not In Tijuana
Mexico's Drug-Related Homicides Are Down But Not In Tijuana
A University of San Diego report on drug violence in Mexico finds that homicides are down overall in the country, but the number of killings in Tijuana is up from 2012.
Mexico's Drug-Related Homicide Rate Down, But There Are Exceptions
GUEST:David Shirk, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of San Diego and Director of the Justice in Mexico Project is one of the authors of a new report, Drug Violence in Mexico.

Drug Violence In Mexico
A report by the Justice In Mexico project at the University of San Diego analyzes data about violent crime in Mexico.
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

Drug-related homicides are down overall in Mexico, but homicides in Tijuana are up more than 50 percent from the year before. Kidnapping and extortion have also increased in the country.

Those are some of the findings in a study called Drug Violence in Mexico, compiled by the Justice in Mexico Project at the University of San Diego.


The authors offer several possible explanations for the country's 16.4 percent decline in homicides – from 21,700 in 2012 to 18,146 in 2013. The Mexican government’s strategy of taking out top cartel leaders may be working, but drug-trafficking organizations may also be facing less competition or they may be colluding with government officials.

David Shirk, who directs the Justice in Mexico Project and co-authored the report, said he thinks violence in Mexico is largely driven by the “dynamics between and among the cartels.”

“In some areas, for example, Baja California, Chihuahua, states along the border, certain cartels have essentially established a monopoly,” Shirk said. “So they don’t need to fight anyone, they can get back to business.”

Shirk said Mexico’s crackdown on drug cartels, started by former President Felipe Calderón, may actually have contributed to the grisly violence there in recent years.

“Now what you have in lots of places in Mexico is small bands, gangs of organized crime members, who are no longer able to move cocaine from Colombia, but they can kidnap and they can extort people. And that’s in some ways a worse problem for ordinary Mexicans,” Shirk said.


Kidnapping and extortion have continued to rise in Mexico, even as organized crime killings have fallen, according to the Justice in Mexico report.

And in Tijuana, homicides increased last year by about 54 percent, according to data from Mexico’s national security system. There were 492 homicides in Tijuana in 2013, compared to 320 the previous year. Baja California authorities have said most of those victims were involved in street-level drug trafficking.

Despite the uptick, the number of homicides in Tijuana last year was still less than half what it was in 2007 at the height of drug war violence there, according to the report.

Homicide figures in Mexico vary widely depending on who’s counting. The Justice in Mexico report relies on data from a variety of sources, including the country’s national security system, the national statistics institute and Mexican media.

Estimates of the number of murders related to organized crime since 2007 range from 75,000 to more than 150,000.