The FBI reported this week that violent crime increased by 4 percent nationally between 2014 and 2015, driven in large part by increases in gun violence in some major U.S. cities.
One area that defied this trend, without any real attention, was urban areas along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Violent crime in U.S. urban areas on the Mexican border declined by 7 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to an El Paso Times analysis of the FBI data, which is based on reports provided by local law enforcement agencies across the country.
This is not a new development. Crime rates in U.S. communities along the Mexican border have been lower than comparable cities away from the border for many years. But that fact is usually drowned out by politically driven rhetoric that paints the border as a war zone.
Violent crime in El Paso, long among the safest of major U.S. cities, declined by almost 7 percent. In Las Cruces, violent crime dropped by more than 9 percent.
Texas officials may try to tie the drop in crime to the so-called “border surge” started in 2014 after families and children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America flooded to the Rio Grande Valley in search of safety.
Any such claims would be questionable at best. First, crime in border areas has been on the decline for many years before the so-called surge. Second, the drop in violent crime is just as pronounced in places like El Paso, Las Cruces, and Yuma, Arizona, which did not see an increase in National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers in 2015.
The low and declining crime rates along the border have many causes. Research has shown that immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to participate in crime. And the federal government has dramatically increased the numbers of law enforcement forces it has placed on the border in the past decade.