SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Border Patrol agents are increasingly becoming victims of assault and attacks while on patrol along the border between San Diego and Tijuana.

Last week, an agent was hit with a wooden plank as she tried to retrieve a ladder that was being used to climb over the border barrier.

She suffered injuries to her arm but was OK, officials said. Tijuana police arrested suspects south of the border.

“People are pushing harder, desperate to get away,” said Aaron Heitke, chief patrol agent for Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector. “We’ve seen more pushing, more shoving, also a 20 percent increase in pursuits as smugglers are becoming more desperate and more violent in order to get away.”

Heitke said there have been 76 assaults on agents this year compared to 54 last year.

“The actual smugglers are telling people to hit an agent, to kick an agent, to create a distraction, so someone can run in behind them,” he said.

Heitke stated it’s also become more dangerous for migrants.

“I don’t remember seeing it this bad,” he said. “In addition to violence against agents, we’re getting more information of actual migrants being preyed on, they’re subjected to violence, abuse, assault and rape as they are moving during their journey, they are very vulnerable.”

Heitke recently met with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to discuss violence along the border and ways to prosecute individuals committing assaults and other crimes.

“If they can get away with it, injuring agents or migrants for that matter, they’ll continue to do it, prosecute and put them in jail they’ll be less likely to do it again,” Heitke said.