Border Walls Don’t Prevent Crime, Study Finds

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A section of existing border wall near Tijuana. Photo by Jonathan McIntosh via Flickr

Increased border security has been an integral focus of the Trump administration since he began his run for office. Most of his campaigns, former and current, have largely been focused on the idea that a border wall extending across the length of our southern border with Mexico would protect Americans from criminals entering the U.S.

President Trump has also argued that the flow of undocumented immigrants represents a threat to public safety that can only be unchecked by secure border barrier. As proof, he claimed that the new additions to current border fencing have “greatly reduced crime in the city of El Paso” during his 2019 State of the Union address, a claim that has not been substantiated.

So have funds spent so far on fencing the U.S. – Mexico border wall helped stop crime?

A new study published by Ryan Abman and Hisham S. Foad, both of San Diego State University, effectively says they haven’t.

The paper, titled Border Walls and Crime: Evidence from the Secure Fence Act, analyzed the effect of local crime across the US-Mexico border since the enactment of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, and cross referenced it with information regarding geospatial data and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) from 2001 through 2016.

Abman and Foad also wrote that they gathered data on both property crime and violent crime “for all counties in states along the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Before looking at the crime data, they followed the money, because the argument for wall funding is seemingly always rooted in the claim that a border infrastructure would reduce crime.

The Fence Act Act, formally known as H.R.6061, partially funded and authorized the construction of 700 miles of a border wall. Between 2004 and 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,  the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s budget “increased from $6 billion to $14.3 billion, a 138 percent increase” since 2006.

A large portion of that money has gone to constructing a physical wall along our southern border, according to the paper.

Since the Government shutdown in February of this year, Trump was allocated funds from Congress which  included $1.375 billion for the wall, “much less than the $5.7 billion he had initially demanded,” despite other estimates pricing the entire wall at nearly $60 billion, according to USA Today.

Now, for the crime data.

Abman and Foad “plotted trends in average crime rates across the 16 counties [ in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas] that received border infrastructure and compare them to trends for counties that received no border infrastructure that lie within 100 miles of the US-Mexico border.”

This process was repeated for counties in those four states within 100-200 miles, and counties in more than 200 miles from the border.

They found that the results don’t indicate any “systematic relationship” between border infrastructure investment, with no drop in crime rates for any category.

“…Our estimates suggest that crime deterrence is simply not a suitable justification for a border wall given that the existing wall has done little to reduce crime,” the authors wrote.

“Thus, any arguments that justify border wall construction with their crime deterrent effects are strongly refuted by our study.”

See also: Judge Halts Private Wall Building on Mexico Border

The full study can be accessed here.

Andrea Cipriano is a staff writer for The Crime Report.

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