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Public Safety

Emergency Call Leads Mexican Law Enforcement To Tunnel in Tijuana

A suspected smuggling tunnel was discovered on the Mexico side of the border near Otay Mesa on March 11, 2010.
A suspected smuggling tunnel was discovered on the Mexico side of the border near Otay Mesa on March 11, 2010.

Mexican law enforcement authorities discovered a suspected smuggling tunnel in Tijuana Thursday afternoon. The opening is inside a building near the Otay Mesa border crossing.

Mexican authorities say workers were digging in a parking lot. They unearthed what looked to them like a tunnel and called the police's emergency number.

Baja California police photos show a rectangle cut out of a bare, rough cement floor. That’s the tunnel's supposed entrance. Photos also show mattresses, dirty sneakers, work boots and wooden furniture wrapped in plastic inside the building.

Lauren Mack, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says it is not clear if the tunnel crosses the border into the U.S. She says the passageway is sophisticated, "With reinforced wooden walls, floor and ceiling. There's a lighting system and a rail track. There have been very few that we've found with a rail track system."

Mack says the Mexican military let U.S. authorities know about the tunnel. She says agents with the U.S. tunnel task force are searching for an opening on the U.S. side of the border and assisting Mexican authorities in Tijuana.

Thursday’s find is the latest in a series of cross-border tunnel discoveries. Well more than 100 have been discovered along the Southwest border since 2001.

A month ago, the Mexican military unearthed another suspected smuggling tunnel in Tijuana. Mexican federal officials own the land near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry where soldiers made the find. The tunnel stopped about 50 yards short of the U.S.-Mexico border.

"San Diego is a popular area for tunneling activity. A lot of it has to do with the soil composition here. It is easier to dig and they hold up a lot better in this area. And, you know, its a major smuggling corridor in this area and always has been," says Mack.

Mack says the collaboration between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Mexican military has been key to recent tunnel discoveries.

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