The U.S. side of the southwest border is home to “some of the safest communities in America,” Gene Garza, the director of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the Laredo, Texas field office, told lawmakers on Tuesday.
Garza testified before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security on May 1 at a hearing entitled, “Using Technology to Facilitate Trade and Enhance Security at Our Ports of Entry.” The CBP is a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Garza said he based his assessment of the safety of U.S. communities along the southwest border to information derived from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), a compilation of annual U.S. crime statistics.
However, the U.S. Attorneys’ Annual Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2011 paints a different picture, showing that 80 percent of all cases filed against criminal defendants in U.S. Magistrate Courts were filed in districts along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Although the most recent U.S. Attorneys’ report makes no direct mention of U.S. border violence, the FY 2010 report states, “Violence along the border of the United States and Mexico has increased dramatically during recent years. The violence associated with Mexican drug trafficking organizations poses a serious problem for law enforcement personnel.”
In addition, in May 2011, Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, when testifying before lawmakers, questioned the ability of the FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) to fully assess the crime situation in border areas.
McCraw said the FBI crime statistics highlighted by the CBP about safe border communities fail to provide a full assessment of the situation on the ground.
As McCraw testified, “To accurately assess the overall criminal impact of an unsecure border on Texas requires the syntheses of several different variables within and outside the border region. For example, if we were to use only Index Crimes as reported through the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system, it would not include essential variables such as extortions, kidnappings, smuggling incidents, corruption, smuggling-related trespassing and vandalism, arrests of aliens from countries with strong terrorist networks, seizures of Cartel drugs, weapons and bulk cash on the 10 major smuggling corridors throughout Texas, Cartel command and control networks operating in Texas, increases in Cartel-related gang activity, death squad members living in Texas, Cartel-related killings of U.S. citizens in Mexico, Cartel-related violence along the border directed at U.S. law enforcement and the recruitment of Texas children in our border region to support Cartel operations on both sides of the border.”
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports include data on “violent crime” and “property crime,” but not all the criminal actions and activities cited by McGraw. The FBI’s violent crime index covers murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The FBI’s property crime list includes data on burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.
Nonetheless, CBP’s Garza used the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports data in claiming that border communities are among the safest in America.