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Don't blame Arizona border violence on drug smuggling

In a speech on the Senate floor last week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., declared that the failure to secure that border between Arizona and Mexico “has led to violence – the worst I have ever seen.”

He reiterated that Saturday after speaking at the West Valley Military Family Day event in Glendale, saying the concern that drug violence could spill across the border remains intense because Mexico’s political situation is volatile.

“The violence is on the increase,” McCain told The Arizona Republic.

Except that it’s not.

Violence is not up on Arizona border

Assistant Police Chief Roy Bermudez shakes his head and smiles when he hears politicians and pundits declaring that Mexican cartel violence is overrunning his Arizona border town.

“We have not, thank God, witnessed any spillover violence from Mexico,” Bermudez says emphatically. “You can look at the crime stats. I think Nogales, Arizona, is one of the safest places to live in all of America.”

FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics provided by police agencies, in fact, show that the crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line. Statewide, rates of violent crime also are down.

Radley Balko has already noted that illegal immigration (while it may have other issues) does not automatically lead to crime, and the article points the numbers out on that as well.

While the nation’s illegal-immigrant population doubled from 1994 to 2004, according to federal records, the violent-crime rate declined 35 percent.

But how about the drug war? Why is there so much violence on the Mexican side and so little on the U.S. side?

It has to do with the nature of the business. It’s on the Mexican side of the border that the control of the business is established. Once drugs are smuggled across the border, there’s little interest in sticking around — they keep on going inland.

Bermudez said people unfamiliar with the border may be confused because Nogales, Sonora, has become notorious for kidnappings, shootouts and beheadings. With 500 Border Patrol agents and countless other law officers swarming the Arizona side, he said, smugglers pass through as quickly and furtively as possible. […]

“It almost seems like Yuma is more of an entryway” for smugglers rather than a combat zone, he said.

Note the rather casual admission that, even with all the border law enforcement, there really isn’t an expectation that smuggling will be stopped or significantly impeded.

Of course, all this doesn’t change the fact that the drug war is causing a lot of violence in Mexico, and that we could dramatically reduce a lot of collateral damage here in the United States as well with legalization and regulation, but this is an interesting side story in political over-reaction.

[Thanks, Tom]

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8 comments to Don’t blame Arizona border violence on drug smuggling

  • claygooding

    It is just another ploy to ask for more funding,to fix a problem that does not exist.the same as the drugged driver ploy.

  • Songbird McCain should stick to doing things he’s good at…like filling his Depends.

  • Stephanie

    While I think drugs should be legalized, I live too close to the violence to pretend it’s not happening. Those of us in Casa Grande got reminded first hand a couple days ago that the violent nature of the drug trade is right here. I don’t know where your stats come from, but in Casa Grande, violent crime is WAY up. Much of it can be traced back to the illegal status of recreational drugs in that there are turf wars between rival “business men”. Property crimes are common since druggies need money to fund their habits. Deadly traffic accidents involving human smugglers and their payloads are a common problem here as well, but I bet that’s not counted as a violent crime. Just as stats can, and are, skewed to continue the insane “war on drugs,” it appears that the stats on violent crimes are manipulated for political reasons as well.

  • denmark

    Thank you for sharing your news Stephanie.

    We are at a tipping point, believe it or not. The American public is fed up with being ignored. I really do believe the g’ment wants us to become violent. While I won’t turn to violence, I will continue to reach out to those that have half a brain and can realize the horror of Prohibition.

  • Ann

    The Arizona immigration law is all about politics, not about immigration. If the concern is drug trade, that’s a crime problem, not an immigration problem. Living in Yuma for the last decade, immigration was a much bigger problem 5 or 6 years ago. No jobs in Arizona means fewer folks coming across the border. And the huge increase in BP agents — and the physical fence — have indeed helped. The AZ GOP is pandering for votes from panicky Anglos, and the hell with the facts (as usual).

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Katharine. Katharine said: Please read this post from @DrugWarRant http://bit.ly/9g7Cd5 setting record straight re: AZ drug trade/border violence/illegal immigration […]

  • Bobbie Cratchit

    Obviously those of you who claim there is no drug-related violence threatening the Arizona border communities have never been there. That the federal government is not doing its job of securing our borders is a travesty. Arizona has a right to take over that responsibility in order to protect the law abiding citizens and immigrants in the US. I won’t resort to meaningless labels like Conservative and Leftist, but I will say that personally disparaging comments such as “Songbird McCain should stick to doing things he’s good at…like filling his Depends” serve absolutely no purpose and merely expose the rampant stupidity that seems to have afflicted those who object to Arizona’s efforts to deal with this very serious issue.

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