Collecting the dead in Acapulco, one of Mexico's most violent cities: Part 2

Violence has escalated in Mexico, much of it driven by gangs fighting for a slice of America's lucrative market for heroin.
7:30 | 05/11/18

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Transcript for Collecting the dead in Acapulco, one of Mexico's most violent cities: Part 2
towards hell" continues. Late night in the legendary Mexican resort city of acapulco, and we are arriving at a crime scene in the middle of a residential neighborhood. So right here on the street you'll see there's a cooler, and inside that cooler we're told is a human head. This kind of horror has become the norm here in this storied city. And indeed across Mexico, which is witnessing the highest levels of violence ever recorded. Cops ambushed. Political candidates assassinated. Even popular vacation spots for Americans such as cancun seeing a spike in murders. Much of it driven by gangs. Fighting for a slice of America's lucrative market for heroin. We set off on a four-day journey into acapulco's underworld, one that would get darker than anything we could have imagined. We just pulled into acapulco. That name, acapulco, seemed to be synonymous with luxury. ??? Let's fly away ??? this is the city that frank Sinatra sang about. ??? Beat the birds down to acapulco bay ??? It was the playground of people like Elizabeth Taylor and the kennedys. Now it's one of the most violent cities in all of Mexico and in fact the world. There has long been drug crime in acapulco, but for years it was controlled by one powerful cartel. When the government killed or captured the cartel's top leaders, however, smaller gangs started fighting for control. We're a little over 24 hours into our stay, and already our first murder. Good to see them working through here. The body was found in the woods on the outskirts of acapulco, a convenient place to dump casualties of the drug war. Then a sight that will become all too common for us over the next few days. Collecting the dead. Ivan Rivera Lopez has been working for the morgue for five years. Is this the first murder victim whose body you've collected today? No, he says, he's already collected another body. Do you think at a certain point you become numb to the violence? "No one is immune," he says. "I'm at risk as much as everyone else." Hours later another crime scene. A man who was evidently tortured and dumped on the street as a message to rivals. I've covered wars all over the planet, and this kind of savagery right out in the open is even to me shocking. It looks like he was thrown from an open car. Then a familiar face. It's Ivan, the morgue worker. This is his third murder of the day. I wonder, for you, this to me is just incredibly grotesque. Is this shocking to you? "Yes," he says. "Because this is a human life." Three bodies in a day is business as usual. Not surprising. Okay. Ivan, gracias. Just looking at this view, this place is beyond beautiful. How has it become so violent? Reporter: The second highest ranking law enforcement official in the state. Insists the tourist areas of acapulco are safe. When you tell me what happened with the violence in acapulco, the violence in acapulco isn not on the touristic city. A lot of people advised us when we came here, look, be careful, don't take a taxi. Are you saying they were being overly cautious? Yes. Of course. So just a few hours after the vice attorney general told us there's very little crime in the tourist areas, there's been a murder here on one of the main avenues in the city, which is not far from the beach. Reporter: The victim, a 54-year-old family man who owned a small food stand in this mall. Oh, man. A family member. So sad. Apparently, he was being extorted and refused to pay. So he was shot six times in the face. The responding officers don't seem nearly as gung ho about crime prevention as the vice attorney general. Do you think they'll ever catch him? It's really difficult because he just boom-boom and run. People run all the time. The next day -- We've come to a funeral and found not only a whole group of mourners but also a whole gruch police officers. It's not uncommon for the gangs to come up and shoot up the funeral. The victim's son agreed to be interviewed as long as we did not disclose his identity for fear of being the next target. Do you have any hope that they'll catch the people who did this to your father? "We know how this works," he says. "The police when they return the body they close the case. There's no investigation." In this city where in the end we witnessed six homicide scenes in four days, and that doesn't even include the ones we were told were too dangerous to film. It was a trip to the morgue that gave us the clearest sense of how much local authorities are struggling to keep up. We saw unclaimed, unidentified bodies stacked like cordwood, badly decomposing in poorly functioning freezers. So this is an unknown male who came in here almost two years ago. August of 2016. So what's been happening for two years with this body? The morgue director says his team has been scrambling to clear out the backlog. At morgues acrossico they're experiencing a relentless tide of blood that nobody expects to abate as long as Americans continue to demand the products that the cartels provide. It's so bad here that the morgue ies to a facility in the state capital to relieve the burden. This is just an incredible thing to look at. These were people. You know, with inner lives just as vivid as our own. Now they just have to stack them on top of each other and put them in a truck and take them away. And so on a hilltop outside of acapulco 30 nameless people are given a temporary resting place in these large concrete slabs. In an ominous sign they are planning to build a dozen more of these structures. Monuments to a cycle of drug consumption and drug violence on both sides of the border. A war with no end in sight.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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