Our Peaceful Borders

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.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Rabbit Scribe||

    The top four big cities in America with the lowest rates of violent crime are all in border states: ...Phoenix...

    But Phoenix is teh kidnappings capital of teh WHOLE WORLD!!!

  • IceTrey||

    Phoenix isn't a border town.

  • ola||

    Neither is Austin

  • ||

    Work on your reading comprehension. Nothing said Phoenix or Austin were border towns. The article said "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.

  • ||

    What hyperbole.

    Phoenix is number 2.

  • ||

    Hate to mention his name favorably, but unfortunately might Phoenix's presence on that list be a result of the hardass law enforcement of Sheriff Arpaio? No criminals would want to go to his jail.

    While I viciously disagree with Arpaio's willingness to violate civil liberties, I think he raises a valid point when it comes to how we treat prisoners too well in most of our prisons, to the point where they don't really mind going back. Living in tents working your ass off and eating shit is likely to make you think twice before reoffending as opposed to three square meals a day, workout time, playing cards and all the TV you could watch in an air conditioned or heated room. Why should taxpayers waste money on treating prisoners to luxuries a lot of citizens can barely afford? I say this of course with the caveat that we're not talking about victimless crimes (including illegal immigration). I just think criminal welfare is another budget cost that can seriously be cut both by releasing victimless criminals and ending the pampering treatment many violent criminals get at our expense.

  • Atanarjuat||

    Criminals should not be pampered, but I spent a month in a county jail, and I got exercise time only once (although I did pushups in my cell). And the food was indeed utter shit. It was air conditioned to the point of being uncomfortably cold, probably in the 60s F. I can't speak about what prisons are like.

  • ||

    Phoenix's kidnapping problem is due entirely to kidnap for collateral in the trades of illegal transport of persons and drugs.

    It's number 1 ranking in the US is due to the fact that it consequently tracks such internecine kidnappings more thoroughly than any other city, so it has more complete kidnapping stats.

    It's number 2 ranking in the world is due to unbelievably lazy journalism.

  • ||

    Plus a stash house that gets busted with 30 illegals is counted as 30 kidnappings

  • Editor||

    What the heck's an "anomoly"?

  • Almanian||

    It's a new metal compound - stronger and more malleable than chromoly, but cheaper.

  • Penny Arcade for any situation||

    Just a big old bowl of grits.

  • ||

    It's Greek for Mahna Mahna.

  • In Time Of War||

    It's a self-aware bot that seeks to destroy humanity.

  • ¢||

    I base all my judgments on large, unexplained, inconsistent variations in small numbers of small numbers.
    Hence the name.

  • The Gobbler||

    "vindicated by crime data"

    Didn't we learn a few days ago that crime data is subject to manipulation?

  • ||

    But if you figure that everybody manipulates crime data, you can still look at relative numbers for "truth", couldn't you?

  • Apogee||

    Possibly, but crime is down everywhere. There are various theories about the causes of this drop, and nobody has demonstrated a direct link.

    Who knows? The reason could actually be an increase in government corruption - Maybe the criminals have become smarter and more organized, while at the same time fraud from government sources pays far better than violent activity?

  • Numbers Pirate||

    The trick is to ask how you define "crime" and what kind of "crime" you're measuring. Violent crime could very well be down in these states: hiring illegals is white collar crime, not violence.

    In Mexico, if you want to rob somebody, what you do is stick a gun in your victim's face and say "Dame todo tu dinero, cabrón!"

    In the USA, if you want to rob somebody, what you do is pick up a ballot, say "Sí se puede!" and vote for Democrats.

  • ||

    No, No, No .... small time - become a banker, a defense contractor or an oil company - and buy both parties

  • PIRS||

    Since Obama wants to send troops to the border to keep out Brown people can we finally call Obama a racist without being called a racist back?

  • Hugh Akston||

    No. You see only people who are wealthy, privileged, and have control over political and economic institutions can be called racist.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That is, people like you.

  • PIRS||

    +19

  • Poor Trailer trash.||

    Phew, thank god. I can go back to using the N-word and I won't be a racist.

  • Almanian||

    PIRS = RACIST!!

  • hmm||

    Wasn't one of the boarder cities name a top kidnapping capital?

    I'm too lazy to look it up.

  • Paul||

    Obama administration is entertaining the idea of sending troops to the border with Mexico.

    He's being presidential.

  • ||

    How DO you entertain an idea: jokes, theater, music, stripper pole?

  • Jester||

    Sing "Na na na! Hey, crude!"

  • ||

    Paul McCartney.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Let's not pretend that Austin is a border city just because it's in Texas -- no mention of San Antonio or Houston or Dallas on the safe cities list, I see -- or that crime in close proximity to the border is the only reason to secure the border.

  • Kolohe||

    Dallas is further away from the border than Austin is.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    And San Antonio and Houston are closer.

  • Scooby||

    No... of those listed, only SA is closer to the border than Austin.

  • ||

    No matter how you slice it, any argument about the safety of the U.S.-Mexico border that relies on crime data from Austin is ridiculous. From Austin, the nearest Mexican border city probably is Nueovo Laredo, which is approximately 240 miles away (almost 4 hours by car on 35 South).

  • ||

    LOL, Peaceful? From what planet do you hail from??

    Lou
    www.big-bro-watching.tk

  • In Time Of War||

    Y'know, that guy modeling a silk robe has the largest breasts of any thin man I've ever seen.

  • IceTrey||

    Well illegals don't try to cross near a big city, they cross out in the middle of nowhere. Plus a city like El Paso has a large settled Hispanic community and they don't want those fools coming in and messing up their good thing.

  • T||

    El Paso used to have the highest car theft rate in the country. So you may not get mugged, but you'd best have good insurance.

  • ||

    Still no progress on that anti-theft device in robocop? Dammit.

  • ||

    Austin is 240 miles from the Mexican border. That's kind of like thinking if there's trouble at the US-Canada border in Buffalo, it will show up in Pittsburgh.

    This is to even leave aside the obvious cherry-picking involved in selecting four of the 15 major US cities within several hundred miles of Mexico and saying, gee, these particular cities don't have a crime problem traceable to illegals-- so it musn't exist, QED. Right. I have no idea if there is a crime problem traceable to illegals in border states, but these random dial-a-statistics are worthless as evidence one way or the other.

    Then there's the idiocy of citing the risk of harm to armed Border Patrol officers as quantifying the crime issue. Hello? Should we doubt that south Los Angeles has an armed robbery problem because LAPD officers are rarely robbed at gunpoint?

    As I understand it, the perception in border states is that illegals are a nontrivial fraction of those picked up for serious crimes -- robbery, burglarly, assault, et cetera. The bottom line question is whether that perception is true or not. Those statistics should not be hard to find, and I'm sure the AP could find them. The fact that they don't means either (1) they're really lazy or (2) the numbers don't tell the story they like. Given this is the AP, it could also be both, of course.

    Finally, as I understand it, the Mexicans are not waging war on drugs, it's a war on drug gangs. They're not trying to bust people far and wide for smoking dope, but rather combat the rule of terror by armed drug gangs. That's a very different thing, and confusing the two is intellectually dishonest. You might as well say that as long as gambling in Atlantic City is legal, it should be cool with the New Jersey and New York authorities if the Mafia runs the town -- with all the thuggery, protection rackets, and violence that implies.

  • ||

    You might as well say that as long as gambling in Atlantic City is legal, it should be cool with the New Jersey and New York authorities if the Mafia runs the town -- with all the thuggery, protection rackets, and violence that implies.

    Actually, BECAUSE gambling is legal in Atlantic city, the mafia CAN'T run gambling because there is no prohibition premium for them to skim.

    Drug gangs exist BECAUSE drugs are illegal. Drug gangs are interested in money, and because drugs are illegal, and in demand, there is a huge profit potential in supplying drugs.

    Think it through.

  • ||

    Couple years ago my ma rented a car and drove from San Antonio to Sante Fe. They told her if she stopped in El Paso the insurance was void. Just sayin.

  • ||

    So the crime wave in Juarez is caused by "the stupid, wasteful, failed 'war on drugs.'". I get that. What I don't get is why the stupid, wasteful, failed war on drugs isn't causing a similar crime wave on *this* side of the border.

  • MWG||

    Um... because Calderon is waging an all out "war" with the cartels using actual troops. It's sorta like shaking up a bee's nest.

  • ||

    I keep reading Balko on how various law enforcement agencies on this side of the border are also waging an all-out "war," in which it isn't just dogs who get killed. The LEOs may not literally be "actual troops," but they dress up like and carry the equipment of actual troops.

  • AlmightyJB||

    what we should do is offer free flights to the us for anyone who wants to come then our crime rate should drop to zero. What a total bullshit article.

  • IceTrey||

    It is, it's just spread out all over the country. In Mexico it's concentrated along the border where the smuggling takes place.

  • Shannon Love||

    The sad truth is that murder rates in America depend largely on the percentage of African-Americans in the local population. African-Americans comprise 13% of population but are responsible for and the victims of, 50% of all murders. That makes their murder rate 4 times higher than whites and nearly 3 times higher than Hispanics. This means that the demographic composition of a city easily swamps all other factors when it comes to murders

    (In leftwing places like Chicago, it has gotten so bad that you might presume it is legal to hunt young African-American men for sport, yet no one there seems to care.)

    San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin are firstly all low-murder cities because they are cities with small (Austin 6%) to non-existant (El Paso) African-American populations. Any other factors barely make a dent.

    Moreover, why should someplace like Austin or Phoenix feel comfortable just because they're not a war zone like a dysfunctional polity like Chicago? The only real question in regard to illegal immigration is whether the cities have a higher crime rate than they would have if immigration laws were enforced.

    A lot of borders regions are seeing higher crime and more gruesome and destructive crime as well. A lot places along the Texas border haven't ever had any significant crime and now suddenly they've got kidnappings and fire fights with military grade weapons. Are they supposed to feel better about the changes in their communities because the idiots in Chicago are having a bloodbath?

    I don't think illegal immigration is really a big deal but the obliviousness of the urban elites to growing sense of lawlessness on the border is really extraordinary. You can spin it anyway you want but we haven't seen anything approaching this since 1912. It's that comparison you should be worried about not how El Paso stacks up against an imploding Chicago.

  • ||

    The only real question in regard to illegal immigration is whether the cities have a higher crime rate where the victims are legal residents than they would have if immigration laws were enforced.

    One other real question is whether enforcing immigration laws increases crime in and of itself.

  • ||

    Unreal.

  • ||

    El Paso's auto theft rate as reported in national statistics is increasing and might actually break into the top 10 this year.

    But the local police think those numbers are inflated and that cars from El Paso that are stolen in Mexico are accruing to El Paso's stats in the US.

    From AutoQuoteNow...

    El Paso police department claim that even if there may be a link between stolen cars and drugs, there is no direct causal correlation to alleged rise in thefts. They accuse NICB of used ‘skewed’ data from the drug war’s impact in Mexico.

    The police department, instead, claims that they noted a significant drop in the incidences of cars being stolen. In 2008, 2,431 cars were stolen while about 1,561 were reportedly stolen as of December 19 last year. They claim that these numbers were derived through actual investigations while the NICB used data coming from the National Crime Information Center of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    Auto Theft Task Force Detective Sgt. Robert Gomez of the El Paso Police Department said that cars stolen in Mexico with US registrations might have been used by NICB.

    Gomez said that the thefts may have actually happened outside of the city. For instance, a car coming from other US states, but is reported to have been stolen in Mexico is added to the FBI database in what is referred to as a ‘courtesy report.’ If most cases, since El Paso is a border town, Mexico thefts are recorded as city thefts.
  • ||

    Another alternate take on El Paso -- by becoming majority Hispanic city, in a sense its already 'occupied territory' as far as the invaders (for want of a better word) are concerned.

    IOW Mexican illegals are less likely to prey on their fellows.

  • Shannon Love||

    That would be historically unprecedented. The long established pattern is that criminals overwhelmingly prey on those in their own ethnic/cultural group.

    Criminals are sociopaths. They don't care about hurting their own because they lack the emotional hardware to really care about anyone else.

  • ||

    Indeed. And a reluctance by illegals who are victims of crime to report them could likely make the crime stats artificially low.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    IOW Mexican illegals are less likely to prey on their fellows.

    You've obviously never been to Guadalajara.

  • ||

    Above, make that 'criminal Mexican illegals'

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Phoenix may not be a border city like San Diego or El Paso are border cities. But I hardly think that matters because there ain't not other place to go once you cross the border except Luke, Ajo, and Gila Bend, which have a combined population of 17 (counting the antique tractors in front of the Shell station).

  • ||

    That's not really accurate. Tucson is much closer to the border with Mexico than Phoenix; Phoenix is about 180 miles from the border on I-19 while Tucson is only about 70 miles from the border along that route. Even if you choose an overland, non-highway route, Phoenix just isn't anywhere near as close to the border. So why not look at Tucson's crime statistics? Maybe size? According to 2006 Census estimates, Tucson has a population of 518,956 while Phoenix has a population of 1,512,986. But it seems like this can't be the explanation for Phoenix's selection over Tucson. Austin, which also was selected for consideration only has a population of 709,893 according to the same estimate. Whereas San Antonio, which is closer to the border, was not selected even though the 2006 Census estimate puts its population at 1,296,682. So, on the surface, it looks like Phoenix and Austin were cherry-picked for results-oriented reasons. I'm open to argument. But the idea that Phoenix or Austin are natural choices here doesn't seem obvious to me.

  • jeez||

    In 2008 7 of the top ten most violent cities were in Southwest Border States. I doubt that has changed much since. Cherry picking statistics cuts both ways.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.....crime_rate

  • jeez||

    D'oh, nevermind. That list is sorted by population, not incidence of violence.

  • ||

    Illegal aliens are not criminals. So what? To my mind, the criminal problem is not the problem at all. The problem is the bankrupting of our country: hospitals shut down because they can't pay for the treatment of illegal who can't, or won't pay. The school systems are inundated by the children of illegals who must be educated. etc, etc.

  • ||

    Ironically, as I was reading this, I was listening to a radio host talking about the "crime problems" in AZ

  • CE||

    I don't have an opinion on this article, but I do have a sudden urge to resist socialism, for some reason....

  • veelin||

    The article doesn't say that the top 4 cities are on the border, it says that they are large cities in border states. Just pointing that out.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    ...Balko's positive picture of the situation in El Paso, vindicated by crime data, is also true of other border cities:

    And then it goes on to quote an article talking about cities in border states. The quoted article doesn't support the "El Paso miracle" occurring in other border cities but it is used as if it does.

    Either Moynihan believes that those 4 cities are border cities or the use of the stats in the quoted article was in pure bad faith in a discussion of "other border cities."

  • Bryan Alexander||

    It's interesting to compare with another pair of border cities with a huge difference in crime: Detroit and Windsor. A mirror of El Paso-Juarez, with the US city being rich in crime.

  • Alfred E. Neuman||

  • lj220||

    people like this man~~FETUYUBDG

  • lj220||

    that's sound great IFDFBEBUD

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement