That's not actually the case, according to a USA TODAY analysis that draws upon more than a decade of detailed crime data reported by more than 1,600 local law enforcement agencies in four states, federal crime statistics and interviews along the border from California to Texas.
The analysis found that rates of violent crime along the U.S.-Mexico border 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 along the border.
U.S. border cities were 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, though, 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 along the southwestern border.
The perception of rising violence is so engrained that 83% of Americans said they believe the rate of violence along the southwestern border is higher than national rates, according to a recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 999 adults....
Some observers say the numbers don't reflect realities on the ground and give cover to a federal government that is not adequately protecting hundreds of border communities. ...
Others read the numbers as proof the issue of "spillover violence" from Mexico is being exaggerated and used as an impetus for anti-immigration legislation and stepped-up federal and state funding to law enforcement agencies along the border."