U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Tex.
In the border town of El Paso, crime rates are lower than people think. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

An investigation by USA Today found that U.S. cities nearest to the Mexican border have lower crime rates than most other cities. The analysis found that crime in border regions was decreasing even before massive scrutiny over border issues in the past few years.

Claims of unstable Mexico border unfounded

An investigative report by USA Today found that claims of increasing violence in cities closest to the U.S. border with Mexico are unfounded. The article asserts that a decade of crime data from more than 1,600 law enforcement agencies revealed crime in border cities was lower than the national average. The popular idea is that border cities are rife with “spillover” violence from confrontations between drug cartels and authorities and battles between drug gangs, but the USA Today report stresses there is little data to back that conclusion.

Crime in border cities fell faster than others

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, violent crime has been declining in the United States since the mid-1990s. The USA Today investigation found that overall violent crime rates — including murder rates — were decreasing. Furthermore, violent crime rates were lower in cities within 50 miles of the Mexican border than in other cities in the same states. In the Uniform Crime Report statistics published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there appears to be a basis in fact, though UCR data is widely panned for being misleading. For instance, El Paso, Texas, had a violent crime rate of 2,681 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2010, compared with 9,161 incidents per 100,000 in Dallas and 4,274 per 100,000 residents in Fort Worth. In Arizona, Tuscon had a violent crime rate of 3,331 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 people, and Phoenix had a crime rate of 8,002 violent crimes per 100,000 people. In California, Chula Vista, seven miles from Tiajuana, had 663 violent crimes per 100,000 people, compared with 5,616 in San Diego, 5,747 in San Francisco and 21,484 violent crimes per 100,000 people in Los Angeles.

Unhinged violence south of the border

Though violent crimes north of the border may be fewer than thought, violent crime in Mexico is not declining. Much of it is close to the U.S. border; more than 9,000 people have been killed in Ciudad Juarez since 2008, according to Reuters. Juarez is directly across the Rio Grande from El Paso. Reports often emerge detailing gruesome cartel violence. According to the Wall Street Journal, there were more than 40 people killed by drug gangs over the weekend beginning Friday, July 8, including a single incident in Monterrey where gang members entered a nightclub with assault rifles and shot more than 20 people to death. The bodies of 10 people were discovered decapitated on Saturday, July 9, in Torreon, and 11 people were found shot to death in Chalco on the same day. According to Reuters, drug war violence has forced thousands to seek asylum in the U.S. Of the 5,551 requests made in 2010, only 165 were granted.


USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2011-07-15-border-violence-main_n.htm

Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/glance/tables/4meastab.cfm

FBI Uniform Crime Report: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/preliminary-annual-ucr-jan-dec-2010/data-tables/table-4/table-4/view

Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303544604576436640578916306.html

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/14/us-usa-mexico-asylum-idUSTRE76D2T620110714?feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews

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