Speaking on the subject of rising crime, Mexican President Vincente Fox on Friday ("Mexican leader knocks US crime rates," AP, Sept. 23) made the same point I did the day after I returned from my vacation in Mexico: Border homicides may dominate the headlines (even the blogs), but overall, especially in the interior, murders are much less common in Mexico than in the United States. Said Fox:
"There is work to be done on both sides. As we've always said, it's a shared responsibility," Fox said while traveling in Puerto Penasco, a tourist destination in the northern state border of Sonora that's referred to in Arizona as Rocky Point.He's right. By any statistical measure, you're far less likely to be murdered in Mexico City, much less in Xalapa, Puebla or Guanajuato, than you are in Dallas, Houston, Washington D.C., or most any major American city. As I wrote on August 19 (before the most recent wave of drug-related homicides on the border, in Acapulco, and in Michoacan):
"I saw that crime rates in the United States increased 3.5 percent so far this year. So they have their own problems," Fox said. "And with numbers of homicides, it's better we don't speak about them, because, even though they show up on the front pages every day, there are many fewer here than there."
From various estimates I've seen, Mexico City, which has a much-touted reputation for crime, averages between 2.1 and 2.5 murders per day. Let's assume the higher end of the range is correct, and that would mean about 900 murders per year occur in Mexico City. By comparison, Houston had 326 murders in 2005, down from more than 600 per year in the early 90s.Despite recent high profile drug-related violence, I still stand by that analysis, especially regarding the Mexican interior. But border towns, especially on the Mexican side, are a different matter - there all hell is breaking loose. Fairly large Mexican cities just across the Rio Grande like Juarez and Nuevo Laredo teeter on the brink of lawlessness. Police and press appear increasingly intimidated or bought off.
But then consider that according to the 2000 census Houston has around 2 million residents, compared to about 20 million people in Mexico City. If Mexico City's murder rate were as high as Houston's, they'd see an astonishing 3,200+ murders per year.
So where should Americans fear for their lives most when traveling? In Mexico, where there's no death penalty deterrent and a bad reputation for crime, or in Houston which sends more people to death row than any other city and whose mayor touts public safety as his top priority?
Wars between drug cartels and one another, much less drug cartels vs. the police, are important not only because of the growing volume of the body count but because, when the bodies stop surfacing, it will mean that a single criminal organization has finally gained control of the $50 billion smuggling trade across the whole length of the US-Mexico border. The frenzy for border security will have unwittingly helped create perhaps the single largest, most lucrative organized crime operation in history.
A cynic's guess: Then they'll call the reduction in murders a "success" and move on to invading Iran. Via Cop the Truth.