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Increased Patrols Credited For Drop In Violence At Border

Increased Patrols Credited For Drop In Violence At Border

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The USA Today via YellowBrix

December 29, 2009

Even as rampant drug-related killings continue in Mexico, intensified U.S. efforts to prevent the violence from spilling across the border are succeeding, according to federal data and law enforcement officials.

Murders in key U.S. border cities dropped in the first half of 2009, new FBI crime data show, and some law enforcement officials say that trend is continuing.

Although 1,000 people were slain in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez in the first six months of 2009, according to the U.S. State Department, neighboring El Paso had four murders. That’s two fewer than the six-month total in 2008, FBI data show.

With one week left in 2009, murders total 13, compared with 18 in 2008, El Paso Police Sgt. Chris Mears says.

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One of the largest drops was in Tucson, where murders fell from 30 in the first half of 2008 to nine in the same period this year. Declines, although smaller, also were reported in San Diego and the Texas border cities of Brownsville and McAllen.

The border numbers coincide with a 10% drop in murders nationwide.

“The violence is not in the numbers we expected,” says Zapata County, Texas, Sheriff Sigi Gonzalez, head of the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition. “So far, I’ve been hearing the same from many of my colleagues” in the past few months.

Gonzalez says increased law enforcement patrols have contributed to a decline in violent offenses all along the nearly 2,000-mile southwest border. Drug and human trafficking remain steady, he says.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has described the patrols as a key defense against expected “spillover” violence. More than 7,000 people have been killed in Mexico since 2008 in the cartel wars.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., who chairs a subcommittee on border terrorism, warned in March that U.S. officials must prevent “this violence from spreading across our border.” Several local law enforcement officials now say the surge has been largely confined to the Mexican side.

“We haven’t seen that brazen type of violence going on in Mexico, because they just wouldn’t get away with it here,” Mears says. “Our people are better trained, better equipped, and you don’t have the kind of corruption that exists in Mexico.”

Laredo, which also recorded a six-month decline, has since had an increase in homicides, from 11 in 2008 to 18 so far this year. Yet police investigator Joe Baeza says the increase, a mix of domestic violence and robbery, is not linked to the border.

In Tucson, about 65 miles from the Mexican border, Police Sgt. Fabian Pacheco says there has been no pause in drug trafficking. “But as far as shootouts and killings,” he says, “that is not the case here.”

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