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February 26, 2013

Report Shows Communities Along Southwest Border are Safe

(WASHINGTON) – Today the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on crime and violence data along the U.S. side of the southwest border, entitled Southwest Border Security: Data Are Limited and Concerns Vary about Spillover Crime along the Southwest Border (GAO-13-175). The report, requested by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ranking Member of the Committee's Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) shows that, in general, crime rates have fallen in border communities in recent years and, in fact, are mostly lower than crime rates in non-border communities within the same states.

The GAO found:

  • Although there is no standard definition of 'spillover crime' and many federal, state and local agencies do not have the resources to track this kind of information, the GAO was able to find pertinent data on border related crime.
  • FBI data showed that violent and property crimes were generally lower along the border in 2011 than in 2004, by as much as 26 percent.
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data showed that assaults on agents were 25 percent lower in 2012 than in 2006.
  • 31 of 37 state and local agencies did not observe violent crime from Mexico spilling into their communities.
  • DHS has contingency plans in place if violent crime increases.

Congressman Thompson released the following statement with the release of the report: "This report appears to suggest that while border-related crime is a concern, border communities are largely safe places to live, work, and do business. While reality does not always match rhetoric, we should have as much information available as possible as we use all available resources to continue to improve security along the border." 

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee added the following statement: "Over the last several years, Congress has made unprecedented investments in border security, and though our Nation's borders can never be fully and finally secured, it is my hope that we can continue on the road toward progress. With the sequester looming, I am concerned that our recent investments to the safety and security of border will be compromised. Under sequestration, CBP would have to absorb more than half a billion dollars in cuts, rendering the agency unable to maintain current staffing levels of Border Patrol agents and CBP Officers as mandated by Congress. The risk at our borders will never be zero, but that doesn't mean our borders are not secure or safe."

Congressman Cuellar also released the following statement on the report: "This report verifies that the border is as safe a place to raise a family, build a business, or enjoy retirement as nearly any other area of the country. We must remain vigilant and continue to strengthen our federal, state and local law enforcement agencies so they can keep the border secure. There are sectors where we can do a better job and I will use my new position on Appropriations to stay on top of this vital national security issue." 

Link to Report

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Media Contact:
(Thompson) Adam Comis at 202-225-9978
(Jackson Lee) Mike McQuerry at 202-225-3816
(Cuellar) Lorraine Carrasco at 202-225-1640