Despite the common impression of a bloody southwestern U.S.-Mexican border, rates of violent crime there have been falling for years — even before the U.S. security buildup that has included thousands of law enforcement officers and expansion of a massive fence, reports USA Today. U.S. border cities are statistically safer on average than other cities in their states. Those border cities, big and small, have maintained lower crime rates than the national average, which itself has been falling.
The appearance of an out-of-control border region has had wide-ranging effects — stalling efforts to pass a national immigration reform law, fueling stringent anti-immigration laws in Arizona and elsewhere, and increasing the amount of federal tax dollars going to build more fencing and add security personnel. The perception of rising violence is so engrained that 83 percent of Americans said they believe the rate of violence along the southwestern border is higher than national rates, The findings “are contrary to conventional speculation that the border is an out-of-control place,” said Steven Messner, a criminologist at the University at Albany-SUNY. Some disagree. “Don’t tell me that the violence isn’t spilling over,” said Pinal County (AZ) Sheriff Paul Babeu. “When you have American citizens who don’t feel safe in their own home or free in their own country, this should be appalling to everyone.”