The concertina wire installed under the Trump administration to reinforce the U.S.-Mexico border is now being stolen and used to protect Tijuana residences as the city grapples with a surge in crime, officials said Monday.
Thieves are stealing and selling the same concertina wire installed in November along the border by the Department of Homeland Security, and 15 to 20 arrests have been made, city officials said.
Contractors were at a border fence on the U.S. side of the Colonia Libertad neighborhood of Tijuana on Monday, replacing some of the stolen wire.
Some homes in the same area had identical wire installed in front of their homes, as an added layer of protection to their property lines and fences, but residents declined to comment about how they obtained the material.
“I don’t actually live here in this house, so I have no idea how that wire got here,” said one woman who declined to give her name at a house where the razor wire was visible in front.
Tijuana was the most violent city in the world in 2018, according a new report by the Citizens' Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice. Homicides rose to historic levels in recent years while Tijuana gangs battled over a lucrative domestic drug market, averaging about seven killings per day, the report said.
The concertina wire — or razor wire — was installed to address fears that large crowds of Central American migrants would force their way into the country, according to a Nov. 19 statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Contractors directed by the National Guard trimmed the border fence along the southwestern end of the United States with 18-foot thickets of the military-grade concertina wire.
“We have detected that the barbed wire that was installed in the border area is no longer there. We know about the stealing of the concertina [wire] from United States authorities who have asked us for help through the liaison staff,” said Marco Antonio Sotomayor Amezcua, the secretary of public safety in Tijuana.
Sotomayor said the material is distinctive and differs from anything sold in stores in Tijuana. Razor wire is stronger, sharper and more likely to cause injury than regular barbed wire, which can be found in any home improvement store, he said.
Director Reynaldo González Mora, who leads Tijuana’s border liaison unit, said police arrested about 15 to 20 people in the last week on suspicion of stealing the material from the border fence.
“The people arrested were mainly Mexican [citizens], and most were people who have been deported from the United States, and people who have problems with drug addiction and live mostly on the street,” González said.
Trump touted the additional layer of border security in a tweet saying, in part, “no climbers anymore under our Administration!”
A CBP official said the concertina wire is made of galvanized steel.
Wire isn’t the only construction material used in the neighborhood. Abandoned tires are a common sight, typically refashioned and used for everything from retaining walls to the foundations of people’s homes.