SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Only two drug rehab centers operated in Tijuana 15 years ago, and now there are more than 100.

What changed?

Experts say drug cartels decided to start selling and unloading their products on the streets of Tijuana, creating a new source of revenue while leading thousands to drug addiction.

“There’s now a big domestic market in Mexico and it almost didn’t exist, now it’s a huge phenomenon,” said Ev Meade, director of Proceso Pacifico, a peace-building organization based in Mexico. “We were talking about a system where drugs were produced in Mexico or transited through Mexico and used primarily in the United States, that’s actually not the model anymore.

Ev Meade is the Director of Proceso Pacifico a peace-building organization based in Mexico. (Elliott Macias)

“Now, having a domestic drug market, kids are starting to use drugs at 10 or 11.”

Meade says this new market and customer base is leading to more violence than ever before with more people getting killed.

Just in the last three years, Tijuana has averaged more than 2,000 murders per year according to Baja California’s Attorney General.

Because of this, the city has earned the title of “the most violent city in the world.”

Meade says it goes beyond the killings that are happening on Tijuana street corners on a daily basis.

“Everybody has a family member who has been affected or colleague at work at least, and then if you add lower levels of violence, people who have been threatened or people who’ve had to pay their way out of a situation to avoid violence. You start to get to where there’s nobody not affected,” Meade said. “Fifteen years in, that’s really true. I think if you were to go back to when people first panicked about violence in Tijuana. say 2008 or 2009, when U.S. tourism stopped and there was military on the streets, the homicide rate was lower than what it is today.”

Meade told Border Report the violence is also indirectly felt in communities north of the border.

“How does it really come home? Numbers tell us if your kid is in normal public school somewhere near in Southern California, there are kids in the classroom who are missing an aunt and uncle or a parent or cousin because of this violence period. We have to ask ourselves, ‘Why don’t we see it.'”

Meade went on to say actual cartel members, those who are involved in the drug trade are allowed to live north of the border within our open society, hiding in plain sight.

“They own big houses right up the street, they’re invested in sports teams, they trade in public markets, they spend millions of dollars on law firms, accounting firms here in the United States and kids are going to school with your kids at our colleges and universities and we’ve made that way too easy.”