MEXICALI — Mexican border cities are often portrayed as run down by drug cartels, but the dominant drug cartel in Mexicali could be the top reason the city is reportedly safer than others.
“The drug cartels that are here in Baja California have taken this part of the state as a territory where it isn’t convenient to create conflict,” Mexicali attorney Arnoldo Castilla García said.
Mexicali has a 2009 murder rate more than three times less than Tijuana, according to rates calculated from the Secretaria de Seguridad Pública del Estado de Baja California.
Calexico Police Chief Jim Neujahr said that all intelligence shows that Mexicali, unlike other border cities, doesn’t have competitive interests.
“In Mexicali it’s pretty much controlled by one group and that same group has been in control for a long time,” he said.
When groups do traverse the geographically difficult route to reach the state’s capitol, they are quickly taken care of, Neujahr said.
Luis Felipe Chan Baltazar, subdirector of Mexicali’s Direction of Municipal Public Security, said this administration has been effective at taking care of drug-trafficking groups.
Another primary reason is the higher quality of life in Mexicali. According to some surveys it’s ranked among the five cities with the best quality of life, Roberto Valero, director of the Centro de Estudios Económicos de Mexicali, said.
The city’s quality of life is based on several aspects: it has the highest percentage of people with higher education in the state. The director also said it is one of the border cities with the highest income level and 60 percent of residents own homes.
“The fact that we have people with better incomes and are better prepared makes us one of the cities along the border with the least amount of people involved with drug trafficking,” he said.
As the state capitol there are about 5,000 jobs provided by the government, Valero said, but one of the most stabilizing factors is the formal sector of the economy.
“The most prosperous economies are those that have their employment generated by the private initiative,” he said. “And in Mexicali the formal sector has hired 180,000 Mexicans.”
As a city with a higher quality of life, family ties are strong.
“I think that in Mexicali you find more interconnectivity than you do in Tijuana or some other border cities,” Carlton Hargrave, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Border Issues, said. “It’s the interconnectivity I think that makes Mexicali a smaller city within a larger population.”
Staff Writer Sarah Horne can be reached at 760-337-3435.
Gerardo Fragoso M. contributed reporting to this article
By the numbers:
9 universities in the municipality
180,000 people employed in the formal sector
20,000 work in the U.S. legally
— Information obtained from CEESEM