Police officers in Tijuana

Allegations collected from detained drug traffickers and local authorities reveal widespread police corruption in Tijuana, investigative newspaper Zeta reports, adding to the list of troubling security developments in Mexico's northern border city.

Following their arrests in May 2015, brothers Manuel Rafael and Roberto Carlos Toscano Rodríguez alleged a state police chief told them "El Pablito," a supposed drug trafficker, was in charge and that the group "La Barredora" was tasked with doing his bidding, reported Tijuana-based newspaper Zeta. The brothers claimed La Barredora was comprised of members of the state and municipal police forces, according to Zeta.

On February 6 of this year, a threatening note signed by La Barredora was found next to the body of an unidentified youth. According to Zeta, since early 2015 these types of messages signed by La Barredora have appeared regularly in northern Tijuana, where a violent turf war has played out between rival criminal groups.

Local authorities also told Zeta that municipal officers from at least three police delegations have been found "giving courtesies and receiving money from criminals" on behalf of their superiors. 

In an interview with Zeta, Francisco Vega de Lamadrid, governor of Baja California, said prosecutors are investigating the November 2015 murder of a municipal police officer who is suspected of being involved in a drug theft reportedly carried out by Tijuana security forces

InSight Crime Analysis

If these allegations are true, they indicate corruption is deeply embedded within the municipal and state police forces in Tijuana. Unfortunately, police corruption is only one part of a larger framework that points to steadily worsening security conditions in the northern border city. 

Although violence has gone down in many parts of northern Mexico in recent years, the opposite is true in Tijuana. In 2012 the city registered a murder rate of 28 per 100,000 residents, a lower rate than some US cities at the time. But Tijuana's homicide rate hovered in the low 30s for the next two years before climbing to 39 per 100,000 last year, even as other northern cities experienced huge security gains. Ciudad Juárez, for example, was the murder capital of the world in 2010, but did not even rank among the 50 most dangerous cities last year, according to one Mexican non-governmental organization.

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Possible changes in Tijuana's criminal dynamics are further cause for concern. Tijuana's underworld is believed to be controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel, but the recent discovery of a narco-tunnel reportedly operated by the notoriously violent Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) suggests a conflict could be brewing over the city's valuable trafficking routes into the United States.