While it still receives some federal funding through partnerships with surrounding counties, the Brooks County Sheriff's Office recently lost its state Border Star funding for the quarter.The story portrays Brooks County, population 7,200, as "facing an overwhelming amount of crime."
[Sheriff Urbino] Martinez explained that with only a staff of three administrators, who also handle calls for help and take missing persons reports, the office couldn't keep up with all the paperwork required to secure the grant.
Brooks County averages two high-speed chases every day involving either drugs or human smuggling.
This year, the county is also contending with 60 missing person cases and 116 bodies of illegal immigrants found murdered or dead from exposure.
Sheriff's office records show the number of bodies found in Brooks County in 2012 has more than doubled from 2011.
Remarkably, asset forfeiture made up 37.5% of the Brooks County Sheriff's budget last year. While "the sheriff's office's actual budget for 2011-2012 was $620,186.90," reported the TV station, that was supplemented with "an additional $387,834 from asset seizure funds."
With all this action reported by the Brooks County Sheriff, it's ironic and puzzling that larger cities along the border continue to see crime fall to historically low rates. USA Today had a story last week titled, "Violent crime falls in US cities along the Mexico border," where we learn that, remarkably, "Ten of the 13 largest cities in Texas, Arizona and California closest to the Mexico border recorded reductions in overall violent crime, according to the latest FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. Eleven of the 13 also saw reductions in property crime, including burglary and car theft." Here's a notable excerpt from that data-driven article:
While the largest of the border cities -- San Diego and El Paso -- also reported declines, murders in each city jumped in 2011. Yet city officials cautioned that the rise in homicides could not be attributed to a spillover in violence from Mexico.El Paso recorded 16 murders in 2011, up from just five in 2010, the fewest since 1964. This year, the number is up to 23 killings. But police Sgt. Chris Mears says the larger numbers are within range of the average for the past 20 years."None of these homicides are in any way spillover violence from Mexico," Mears says, adding that a number of the homicides have involved child abuse resulting in death.San Diego County Sheriff Cmdr. David Myers says the rise in murder there â(euro) " from 29 in 2010 to 38 in 2011 â(euro) " was largely attributed to a "flurry" of domestic-related disputes. None of the deaths were linked to Mexican violence, though Myers says the cartels remain active in the region.El Paso’s proximity to one of the most violent cities in Mexico and world, Ciudad Juarez, prompted widespread fear last year that Mexican violence -- which claimed 3,400 lives in Juarez alone in 2010 -- was washing into U.S. border cities.But a 2011 USA TODAY analysis of crime data reported by 1,600 law enforcement agencies in four border states found that violent crime rates on the U.S. side of the southwestern border have been falling for years.
It's hard to square these sorts of stories. The Brooks County Sheriff reports very few offenses in annual Uniform Crime Reports, which form the basis for USA Today's calculations. The FY 2011 jurisdiction-level report isn't up on the DPS website yet, but they reported one murder in 2009 - the first since the turn of the century - and none in 2010, when the Sheriff's office reported 14 total index-crime offenses. That hardly seems like an overwhelming caseload. One also wonders, if the agency engages in two high-speed chases per day, why those offenders haven't shown up over the last decade ( FY '11 and '12 data aren't available yet from DPS) in the Sheriff's UCR reports? One senses a whiff of exaggeration in the Sheriff's breathless account.The analysis concluded that U.S. cities near the border are statistically safer, on average, than others in their states. The new FBI numbers follow that same pattern.
Is border crime "overwhelming" or low as ever? As is often the case one can find news sources, like those quoted in this post, that take both sides of the question. But when one source relies on data analysis and the other on anecdote and hype, my gut generally tells me to go with the folks crunching the data.