El Paso crime dips

December 12, 2008 2:04:04 PM PST
As the bloody struggle for control of Ciudad Juarez continues just across the Rio Grande, police in neighboring El Paso are boasting yet another year of lower violent crime rates. Overall, reports of violent crime are down about 4 percent compared to 2007, El Paso Police spokesman Darrel Petry said.

The good news about crime in El Paso, a border city of about 600,000 in the corner of West Texas, is a stark contrast to Juarez, a sprawling border city of 1.5 million people, where violence has taken over the city with nearly 1,500 slayings this year.

Most notable, Petry said, is that police have investigated only 16 homicides this year. Petry said 16 killings were also reported in 2007.

But just across the Rio Grande, Mexican police are dealing with daily reports of slayings, bank robberies, carjacking and other armed robberies. Crime has skyrocketed this year and fears have been mounting in the U.S. that the lawlessness would soon seep across the border.

Those fears appeared to be well-founded earlier this year when El Paso police confirmed that they had received credible information that cartel leaders in Mexico had given hit men permission to kill people in Texas.

But so far, those threats haven't materialized.

"Everyone keeps singing that song and it just isn't happening," Petry said.

Andrea Simmons, an FBI spokeswoman in El Paso, said the lack of spillover in El Paso is likely the result of a "combination of a number of things."

"It terms of the killings (in Mexico), they are related to the drug cartel war," Simmons said. "The people they (the cartel) are disciplining are in Mexico. They have access to them so they don't need to go beyond their own borders."

Simmons said a fundamental difference in law enforcement strategies in the U.S. is also likely a factor.

"Considering the circumstances in that city and state, there's a breakdown in law enforcement and government, so it makes it easier for them to discipline their people," Simmons said. "There's just a lawlessness there. If you saw that in El Paso you would see a major law enforcement response."

Mexican federal authorities have launched an offensive against warring drug cartels across the country, but corruption among police and military ranks continues to be a problem.

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