Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Laredo launches billboard, web campaign promoting city safety

Driving back to Austin from Dallas last week I saw a couple of billboards promoting the website "," purporting to distinguish "hype vs. truth," as sort of a counterweight to the PR campaign being undertaken by Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples with the opposite theme. Among other indicators, points to the city's uniform crime reporting indicators, published in their police department's annual report, which show an across the board drop of 16% in reported crime in 2011. They also showed a 21.6% decline in traffic stops in 2011, which coincides with a statewide drop in traffic tickets that Grits doesn't yet fully understand. (E.g., Houston and Fort Worth reported 2011 reductions in traffic citations comparable to that in Laredo.) In any event, it's remarkable that the city of Laredo (which is who sponsored the billboards and site) felt the need to combat the negative image that politicized demagoguery has foisted upon the town.

The flip side, of course, is that for most Texans who didn't have business there, the main reason to go to Laredo was always to get to Nuevo Laredo or beyond. Similarly, Del Rio's a nice little town, with its picturesque, hundred-year old canals filled with water from the state's largest natural spring (pumping several times the amount of water as Barton Springs in Austin, though regrettably located on what is now a golf course). But for me it's mostly just the place one ate lunch and parked the car before walking to much-larger Acuña on the other side of the river, where for many years, until the border-town fighting started, my wife and I would go to buy Christmas presents. So as long as cities on the Mexican side are unsafe, tourism in Texas border towns will inevitably take a hit, for the same reasons that I'm not spending as many tourism dollars in Texas border towns as I did perhaps ten years ago (even if exchange rates and airline fares have conspired with my own career choices to send me traveling more frequently in the Mexican interior of late than overseas).

Still, the city's ad campaign makes an important point that's lost in all the border security hype: Most "spillover" along the border isn't headed south to north but north to south. The Texas side of the border has seldom seen actual spillover violence, and certainly nothing remotely on the levels witnessed across the river in Mexico. Statistically, in fact, Texas border towns are among the safest in the nation. Meanwhile Texas prison gang members may be responsible for thousands of Mexican-side murders.

So yes, "Laredo is safe." But to the extent its fate is intertwined with Mexico's, regrettably that isn't the only consideration.


Anonymous said...

But DPS needs to justify the gunboats, recon teams, guns on aircraft, etc. Painting the whole southern border as a war zone gets them cash. Don't you see?

In actuality, it seems there is a war on economies along the border, not cartels or spillover violence. Paint Laredo as a combat zone and everyone stays away. Their economy suffers and the government blames it on spillover violence.

Anonymous said...

I would concur with 09:45. Mexico has a wonderful culture and attitude quite different than the USA. If one were living in Mexico, they might enjoy the redicuous US press, keeps the scared people out. Many people try to escape the USA, then turn around and bring the very things they so wished to escape.

Grits does a fine job exposing the govenment as the self perpetuating entity that it is. Stay in the USA and buy the press and DPS propaganda? Or visit Mexico and understand they think a litte different and that's OK. It is not better or worse, just different. Most Mexican metro areas are statistically safer then thier US counterparts on violent crime. You can see and feel it in the people, they are not violent by nature.

If you visit Mexico, clear the border and keep going. There are wierd dynamics about the border, both sides.

If you are not looking to score a kilo or running guns, you won't have a problem. There is alot of opportunity crime, petty theft and police extortion. Just like the USA. Be intelligent, lock your car and don't be wandering around drunk, by yourself at 2AM, especially if you don't speak Spanish.

Just like Brooklyn, New Orleans, Detroit or Houston, don't be wandering around alone late at night if you don't speak ghetto and not looking for trouble...

Anonymous said...

I have seen these signs all around San Antonio. i don't care what the facts & figures are, anyone who goes around the border towns is just asking for trouble. Who the hell wants to visit a country where finding 20+ cut off heads laying around is par for the course?? Who wants to be anywhere near that environment??

Anonymous said...

Improper use of taxpayers money. Let the chamber of commerce fund these signs, not taxpayers.

Ashley Casas said...

@Heywood Jablowmy

Daredevils and pretend badasses, I guess.

On a more serious note, I understand where the city of Laredo is coming from. Being stereotyped as dangerous just because they are border towns may affect the local economy, that and among other things.

If I were a resident of Loredo, I will probably get tired of all the shocked expressions of new people I get to meet. Picture this: "Where you from?" "Oh, I was born in Loredo." And they would be like "Really? Seriously, man, you're still alive?" And I'd be like "Oh yeah, we moved to San Francisco a year back."