Last year, Radley Balko pointed out that El Paso, Texas, which sits on the Mexican border, directly across from the hideously violent city of Juarez, is one of the safest big cities in America. But surely that is an anomaly, considering that the Obama administration is entertaining the idea of sending troops to the border with Mexico. As the Los Angeles Times noted last month, "Officials say more than 6,200 people died last year in Mexico as a result of the drug war, and more than 1,000 were killed in the first eight weeks of 2009."
Now, it's an easy story to parse. Thousands are killed every year on the Mexican side of the border, as a result of the stupid, wasteful, failed "war on drugs." The Associated Press ran the numbers and found that Balko's positive picture of the situation in El Paso, vindicated by crime data, is also true of other border cities:
It's one of the safest parts of America, and it's getting safer.
It's the U.S.-Mexico border, and even as politicians say more federal troops are needed to fight rising violence, government data obtained by The Associated Press show it actually isn't so dangerous after all.
The top four big cities in America with the lowest rates of violent crime are all in border states: San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin, according to a new FBI report. And an in-house Customs and Border Protection report shows that Border Patrol agents face far less danger than street cops in most U.S. cities.
The Customs and Border Protection study, obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request, shows 3 percent of Border Patrol agents and officers were assaulted last year, mostly when assailants threw rocks at them. That compares with 11 percent of police officers and sheriff's deputies assaulted during the same period, usually with guns or knives.
In addition, violent attacks against agents declined in 2009 along most of the border for the first time in seven years. So far this year assaults are slightly up, but data is incomplete.
"The border is safer now than it's ever been," said U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Lloyd Easterling.