As organized crime-related violence has increased in northern Mexico, so has the heated rhetoric regarding the U.S. side of the border. The title of National Geographic’s program, Border Wars, exemplifies the sentiment, echoed by several politicians, that the border region is lawless and dangerous. For residents of the U.S. border region, thankfully, the reality is anything but that.
In fact, as violent crime surged in parts of Mexico, the U.S. border region became safer. While in Mexico the murder rate climbed 29% between 2005 and 2010, it declined 24% in the U.S. border states. This suggests that despite a smattering of violent incidents perpetrated by members of Mexican criminal groups in the United States, widespread “spillover violence” has not occurred.
Other studies demonstrate similar findings. Using data reported to the FBI by local law enforcement agencies, USA Today found that most cities in the border region (within 100 miles of the border) had violent crime rates lower than state and national averages. Indeed, some of the largest border cities, like El Paso and San Diego, have murder rates that are less than half the national average and among the lowest in the nation for cities of their size. Another report, by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, analyzed the rates of violent crime from 1999-2008 and found no statistically significant increase in violent crime in cities and towns where Mexican drug trafficking organizations are known to operate, either along the border or in any part of the United States.