The recent, and longest, government shutdown has focused public attention on claims by President Donald Trump and his Wall proponents that crime is not only a major problem but is actually out of control along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Both politically motivated assertions are false.
In a January 8, 2019 report, the Cato Institute found that if the national crime rate in the U.S. was identical to the crime rates in counties along the U.S.-Mexico border, there would be nearly 6,000 fewer homicides, 160,000 fewer property crimes, and 100,000 fewer violent crimes in America.
But what about the Texas border?
Southwest Texas’s Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson was quoted by the Cato report as saying: “A lot of politicians are running on securing the border. One’s got a six-point plan, one’s got a nine-point plan. They’re throwing tons of money at this border. I wish they’d just shut up about it … I think they’re [politicians] just throwing money at the border for nothing. I think people on the interior see all these shows about the border where there’s violence.”
Operations by DPS in Border Region Up Dramatically
A September 2018 report by the Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) found that in 2016 the total number of criminal arrests made by DPS in the Texas border region was 17,648 while in 2017 the arrest number increased to 22,662. These arrest figures were eclipsed during the first six months of 2018 when DPS made a total of 79,737 arrests in the border region.
This dramatic increase in border region arrests in 2018 can be attributed to the dramatic increase in operational activities by DPS, particularly through staggering increase in personnel and physical resources allotted to the area.
For example, DPS conducted 3,950 aviation operations (mostly helicopter) in 2016 and 3,134 aviations operations in 2017 as compared to 17,146 aviations operations conducted during the first six months of 2018. The same is true for the number of special tactical operations conducted in 2016 (2,562) and 2017 (2,555) as compared to the 8,268 such operations conducted during the first six months of 2018.
To accomplish its increased law enforcement efforts in the state’s border region, DPS enjoys the following border security personnel and assets:
- 13 boats operating in Rio Grande River (4,100 detentions between 2016-2018);
- 5,000 detection cameras (352,000 detections between 2016-2018);
- Aviation detection: 8 helicopters, 2 mid-altitude fixed wing aircraft, and 2 high-altitude fixed wing aircraft (nearly 13,000 detections between 2016-2018);
- 1,026 DPS troopers assigned to the border;
- The following tactical teams: DPS and U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations Units; Texas Rangers Recon teams; a DPS SWAT team; and six Regional Special Response Teams;
- Six Joint Operations Intelligence Centers gathering data over 54 counties with the assistance of 175 law enforcement agencies;
- 66 communications operations personnel assigned;
- 151special agents permanently assigned to DPS drug smuggling infrastructure; and
- 54 special agents permanently assigned to detect corruption among its ranks by drug cartels.
These DPS teams quadrupled their efforts during the first six months of 2018 over the previous two years, producing five to six times as many apprehensions and drug seizures.
Crime Rate Lower on Border than Interior
According to the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report (2016), El Paso and Laredo respectively had the highest violent crime rates among all Texas border cities. El Paso had a violent crime rate of 390 violent crimes per 100,000 people while Laredo had 362 violent crimes per 100,000 people. This compared to the average 464 violent crimes per 100,000 people in all other non-border Texas cities. The state’s three largest cities—Houston, San Antonio and Dallas—far eclipse the border cities in violent crime rates.
The simple reality is that walls, fences and barriers do not protect countries: the Great Wall of China did not stop Ghengis Khan and his horde of invaders from invading that country and the Berlin Wall did not stop 5,000 defections from East to West Berlin. Today Israel, the Baltic States, China, Ecuador, and Kenya have erected walls or other barriers to separate themselves from hostile and potential hostile influences.
According to The Conversation, at the end of the Cold War there were only 15 countries worldwide with walls; today, there are 70 countries with walls. All these walls have proven ineffective at preventing perceived and real threats to the national security of these countries and have produced horrendous human and economic costs.
Native Born Americans Commit Crimes at Higher Rates
And walls, fences, and barriers will not make Americans safer from crime by non-citizens. Native born Americans commit crime at a significantly higher rate than people who are in the U.S. unlawfully. Texas is a clear example that it is collectively safer living in one of the state’s border cities than it is living in one of its non-border cities.
Alaska Has Higher Crime Rate than Border Region
Nor do walls, fences, and barriers make people safer. Consider Alaska’s 804 violent crimes per 100,000 as compared to Texas’s 464 violent crimes per 100,000 people. New Mexico is the only state on the U.S.-Mexico border that ranks in top ten most dangerous states in the U.S. Arizona ranks 12th, California ranks 15th and Texas ranks 17th.
Public safety comes from effective law enforcement, economic opportunity and community input. It has nothing to do with walls, fences or barriers—and for all those politicians who say otherwise, we borrow Sheriff Dodson’s words by telling them to “just shut up.”