While elected officials in Congress continue to harp on the need to make the U.S./Mexico border area safer, a panel of current and former law enforcement officials gathered at the Border Security Expo said Tuesday that the U.S. side has seen an unprecedented drop in both violent and non-violent crime in recent years.
“The border today is transformed,” former Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner David Aguilar told a crowd of conference attendees, who traveled to the Phoenix expo to learn about new security products. “Border communities are safer than the interior locations of each of the border states. Violent crime is lesser along the border than it is in the interior.”
The border cities of El Paso, Texas, and San Diego, Calif., have in recent years routinely ranked two of the safest large cities in the United States, according to figures compiled by Congressional Quarterly.
“The entirety of the [U.S. side of the] southern border is safer than the area where I live, Washington D.C.,” Aguilar added.
Washington D.C. had a homicide rate of 15.9 per 100,000 in 2013, according to the most recent FBI Unified Crime Report available. By contrast, the national homicide rate stood at 4.5 per 100,000 for the same year.
Despite drug war violence across the border in Mexico, Victor Rodriguez, the chief of police for the Texas border city of McAllen, said that every local crime statistics report has shown a drop in crime compared to the previous year for the last five years. Last year’s figures were the lowest in 24 years, the earliest year for which comparable records exist.
“When people thought the sky was falling, the reverse was actually true,” Rodriguez said.
He explained that the growing emphasis on border security since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 made it harder to commit a crime in the United States and escape across the border, or vice versa.