A USA Today reporter from their Austin Texas bureau wrote a piece in the Times last week titled “Did border fence lower crime rates in El Paso?”.
“In his remarks, Paxton [the Texas attorney general] said El Paso had a high crime rate before the fence was constructed and that the rate of crime dropped substantially after it was completed.
That was not the case.”
Earlier in the article she told us that the attorney general had not specified which iteration of our border fence he was referring to.
Because he referenced border barriers erected under former president George W. Bush she concluded that he was talking about fencing authorized by congressional act in 2006. She pointed out that the construction started in 2008 and was finished by mid-2009.
She wrote further:
“From 2006 to 2011–two years before the fence was built to two years after–the violent crime rate in El Paso increased by 17 percent.”
Would it be too much to ask her to tell us where she came up with that number? Shouldn’t a reporter cite her sources?
This chart came from the El Paso police department’s 2011 annual report:
It was the case
According to the El Paso police department crime rates went down after the fence was built. In fact the chart does not substantiate her claim of a 17 percent increase.
I don’t know if the reporter has ever lived in El Paso. Those of us that lived here during that period of time know that property crime rates dropped significantly after the fence was built.
We deserve better
This is based only upon personal observation and not official statistics. I believe the crime rate has indeed increased but is under-reported and under-recorded in order to artificially inflate the theory of “Safe City”. I say this after witnessing a couple of burglary attempts near me and a break in that were labeled in reports as disturbances. I am seeing an uptick in drug deals going down near the high school a stone’s throw away, and a tremendous amount of gang activity at most of the area’s high schools. The fence contributed to a marked decrease in crime adjacent to the border but out here in East/Far East, it seems to be a lively trade. I could be mistaken of course. The nightly shots and gunfire sounds could indeed be off season fireworks. Maybe. Perhaps.
Gee, Mike, you ought to write for the Times!
Nope, John, I leave that to other folks. Besides, the Times wouldn’t know how to just report something without adding in their personal opinions and bias.
Mike isn’t wrong. The police actively look for reasons not to initiate investigations as much as possible. Whether it is the safe city label or simply lack of manpower is debatable.
EPPD has no shortage of manpower to regularly set up speed traps. Most are on downhill slopes where a person’s speed is likely to increase inadvertently.
Crime also dropped after Ft Bliss moved away some of it’s basic training brigades. Crime also dropped after the Group Task Force 6 moved in. Crime also dropped after the recession(s) ended. None of those had anything to do with fences. Correlation is not causation. Any high schooler taking statistics knows that.
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And actually, EP had fencing much earlier than than that. When Sylvestre Reyes was running CBP locally he initiated Operation Hold the Line. It was so successful, he ran for Congress using that as a key accomplishment and it was touted as model of success in justifying the Bush strategy.
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As Anonymous noted above, there has been fencing along the border between Cd. Juarez and El Paso since at least the early 1980s and earlier in most locations along the levees, but, long before Operation Hold. Reyes’ Operation. That invoved the stationing of BP vehicles at stationary points, most often just on the US side of the fencing, with each BP vehicle within visual view of each other.
Let’s review. Before Operation Hold the Line, the Border Patrol’s policy was cat and mouse. The Border Patrol would drive around the city looking for people that looked like they might have entered from Mexico illegally. The agents would cruise the bus stops, and drive around downtown, and stop people and ask for documents. If the Border Patrol determined that the people they stopped were likely from Mexico, the agents would take them back to Juarez and drop them off. Some days the Border Patrol would catch and return the same people twice.
The river by the bridges downtown was busy. Vendors on the southern side sold elotes and burritos. A few opportunistic entrepreneurs, lancheros, would ferry immigrants across the river on truck tire inner tubes, because one of the clues that the BP would look for was wet pant legs.
Teenagers, andando de vago, would cross into El Paso on a goof. They’d come by my house in Barrio Heights and steal my rake and my hose, and then go the neighbor’s and offer to do yard work.
The penalty for those caught entering the U.S. illegally was a ride home.
Operation Hold the Line stopped those casual incursions. Operation Hold the Line pushed illegal immigration out to more dangerous parts of the country. People had to be more desperate to try to cross there. But they were, and they did, and many of them died.
The difference between before Operation Hold the Line and after
was the difference between a porous border and a much less porous border.
The existing policies reduced illegal immigration in El Paso by, what? Ninety-eight percent? Hardly anybody crosses the river these days except at the Ports of Entry. Building an expensive wall around here sure looks like a waste of money from where I sit, in Barrio Heights.
We’re looking at a question of diminishing returns. Are we ever going to reduce illegal immigration to zero? Not likely. Do we need to spend $5.7 billion to reduce it a sliver more? Seems like we could spend the money more effectively.
It’s like what our local government is doing. Would we rather spend $180 to $250 million on a downtown arena? Or should we let the taxpayers decide how they want to spend their money?
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I think there is a key difference in illegal alien traffic today. The examples above are casual day workers looking to pick up a job and go home at night. The problem today is that well organized narco gangs are making $7k a person moving people across the border to enable them to disappear into the interior. Additionally large caravans (now bussed vs walking) are trying to enter and overwhelm our systems. If caught they want amnesty but if not caught who knows. Those are mostly Central Americans but there are also reports of Chinese, folks from Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries now using the caravans to enter. Having a system that combines barriers, people, sensors, drones and port surveillance makes sense because people and tech are no match against a mob and open desert, and a political climate that doesn’t allow agents to use excessive force in the face of that type of invasion. But we also need immigration reform that better channels the amnesty process before folks leave home and a path for skilled financial immigrants who don’t want citizenship to enter the US and work legally. That would protect wages, protect people and give employers the workers they can’t find here. We also need to understand that if we open our doors to masses of illiterate folks too unskilled to be employable in any job, we will overburden our safety nets and disinfranchise our own poor. Every other developed nation in the world is having that inconvenient truth conversation right now.