[JURIST] Rates of violent crime along the US-Mexico border [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] have been declining for several years, according to a USA Today analysis [text; interactive materials] released Thursday. The study indicated that, on average, US border cities were safer than other cities in the same states, with border cities maintaining lower crimes rates than the national average. Federal crime statistics, interviews and crime data from over 1,600 local law enforcement agencies in four border states, as well as demographic figures from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey [official website], form the basis of the study. The analysis suggests that the US-Mexico border may not be as dangerous as the general US population perceives. For example, according to the study, murder and robbery rates for cities within 50 miles of the border were lower than the respective state average in nearly every year from 1998 to 2009. Critics of the study are concerned that the analysis does not accurately reflect the true landscape of violent crime in border cities and fails to take into consideration those crimes that go unreported, particularly kidnapping and extortion. Several analysts quoted in the report, however, argue that the analysis confirms that politicians have exaggerated the extent to which violence occurs along the US-Mexico border and make unsubstantiated claims linking illegal immigration to crime rates.
The US has adopted numerous approaches to curb illegal immigration and crime along the US-Mexico border. US President Barack Obama signed legislation [JURIST report] designed to increase security along the US-Mexico border in August 2010 after announcing in May 2010 that he would send 1,200 National Guard [official website] troops to the US-Mexican border in an effort to deter drug smuggling and illegal immigration [JURIST report]. The US government abandoned a prototype “virtual fence” [JURIST report], part of the Secure Border Initiative [DHS fact sheet], along the US-Mexico border after the system, passed in September 2006 [JURIST report], failed to perform up to expectations. In 2006, former US president George W. Bush [official profile] announced [JURIST report] the deployment of up to 6,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border as part of a wide-ranging plan to ‘fix’ problems created by illegal immigration. The US Border Patrol [official website] subsequently announced [JURIST report] that the number of illegal Mexican migrants attempting to cross the US-Mexico border in Arizona had dropped significantly due to deployment of those troops who worked to extend border fences and repair roads in the area.