Push for more border troops comes amid falling crime statistics

Congress may be hard-pressed this week to make its case for sending 6,000 National Guardsmen to the U.S.-Mexico border in the face of newly available national statistics that show low and declining levels of violence in cities within the southwest region.

President Barack Obama recently agreed to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border to help curb the flow of illegal drugs, guns and money, as well as to help mitigate instances of spillover violence from Mexico.

ADVERTISEMENT
This week several senators, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), are expected to make a strong push to send thousands more troops to the border region during the debate of the defense authorization bill. It is expected to spark a furor of opposition from both the Senate and the White House.

But the impending debate comes amid newly released FBI statistics that show low levels and an overall decline in instances of violence and crime in major border-region cities.

The numbers, released by the FBI before the Memorial Day recess, show that Phoenix, San Diego and El Paso, Texas, all have some of the lowest rates of violent crime compared to other cities throughout the United States.

Between 2008 and 2009 instances of violent crime in Phoenix dropped by more than 16 percent and the number of murders decreased by more than 17 percent. Violent crime in San Diego dropped by nearly 2 percent and murders fell by more than 25 percent. In El Paso, levels of violent crime remained the same, but the number of murders dropped by nearly 30 percent, according to the FBI’s latest statistics.

Nationwide, violent crime decreased by about 5 percent last year. Violent crimes within counties that run along the Mexican border have seen a 30 percent decrease over the past 20 years and remain some of the lowest rates in America.

But McCain and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) have argued that Arizona is plagued by drug runners and kidnappers who helped make Phoenix the “kidnap capital” of the U.S. in 2008. 


When Brewer met with Obama last week, she said she was “encouraged” by his move to send officials to Arizona in the next several weeks to update and instruct state officials on the latest deployment of National Guardsmen. 

Obama’s move, which promises $500 million in extra funding for border security, came after his recent meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and on the heels of many calls from border-region lawmakers to send troops.

Last week, the first unmanned aerial vehicle took to the skies for its first of many surveillance flights along the U.S.-Mexico border, gathering real-time information for law enforcement officials about illegal movements along the 2,000 miles of border.

Congress’s renewed attention to the violence followed the recent slayings of a U.S. consulate worker in Mexico and an Arizona border rancher. More than 22,700 people have been killed since Calderon took power in 2006 and began an all-out war against drug cartels in his country.

Calderon has deployed 45,000 army soldiers to dangerous cities and regions throughout Mexico – including 7,000 to Juarez, where more than 4,500 people have been killed in the past two years.