At the nightclub door, a security guard checks every bag, pocket and makeup pouch with a mini flashlight. In the bathroom, another stands watch as drug dealers sell cocaine in bags marked with skulls. That guard escorts revelers into a stall where they can snort in private.

Drug gangs are ever more powerful in Mexico City, leaving even the most exclusive nightspots with little choice but to let them sell their wares. It’s better than the alternative: Outside the club — near the Cibeles Fountain in a neighborhood popular with American tourists — the owner of another bar was shot dead. More recently, two men with narcotics in their car were gunned down eight blocks away in broad daylight and shooters at an exclusive mall left two more dead.

Mexico City had always been a haven from the beheadings and mass graves that beset the country. But as homicides have risen year after year, it began to look more like the rest of Mexico. Since leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took power in December, crime has become topic No. 1 in conversations in cafes and bars and offices.

Despite promises to lower violence by addressing poverty and youth disaffection, killings have soared 15% this year under the leadership of Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, a close ally to the president known as AMLO. After gunfights hit chic neighborhoods and two young men from middle-class families were kidnapped and murdered, Sheinbaum sent in the newly created National Guard, a measure meant for only the worst narco spots. Now, the perception that crime is spinning out of control in one of the world’s largest capitals is unnerving investors in an economy that is poised to grow this year the least in a decade.

“Our clients are far more concerned,” said Gonzalo Nadal, who runs Mexico City-based risk consultancy ON Partners, whose clients include the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico. “Some have expressed serious uncertainty” about whether to expand in the capital.

Sheinbaum says crime had actually been worsening for years but the previous administration altered data to cover it up. She published new statistics for last year that showed homicides were higher than previously thought before she took power. That makes the comparison with this year’s numbers less dramatic. Some crimes, like theft, have actually fallen. Muggings are down 23%.

But homicides are still on the rise — 898 victims in January through June — and critics blame her and the president.

Mexico City needs more and better-trained detectives and prosecutors, but steep budget cuts instated by AMLO make their jobs harder, said Francisco Rivas, who heads the National Citizens’ Observatory, a group that seeks to improve security policy. “Instead, the city opted to change the color of patrol cars,” he said.

AMLO said in an interview Monday that his social programs are addressing the causes of the violence and the National Guard is providing personnel to beef up crime fighting. “I don’t delegate this matter to anyone. I’m dealing with it directly,” he said.

Ever since then-President Felipe Calderon declared war on traffickers in 2006, violent crime has gotten worse and worse. The strategy of hunting down capos merely splintered cartels into smaller, more belligerent gangs.

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