When Border Alarmist Talking Points Go Wrong

Despite numerous reports showing a marked decrease in violence in the region, members of Congress continue to characterize the region as an out of control war zone.
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"The sky is falling," is a familiar refrain from politicians on both sides of the aisle when it comes to, well just about everything in an election year. Such is the case when it comes to our southwest border region.

Despite numerous reports showing a marked decrease in violence in the region, members of Congress continue to characterize the region as an out of control war zone. An example of this phenomenon is Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R) of Utah's 3rd District who recently got into a heated exchange with the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at a recent Judiciary Committee Hearing. During the exchange, the Congressman made several erroneous statements about Nogales, AZ a city along the border. Rep Chaffetz stated:

"Well, this is from the Nogales Department of Police. Let me read some numbers: 2009 to 2010, burglary up 82 percent, thefts up 113 percent, thefts from auto up 132 percent, grand theft auto up 70 percent, aggravated assaults up 76 percent, assaults up 81 percent, and damage to property up 81 percent. It doesn't sound like this is the most secure border that we've ever had."

While Rep. Chaffetz gets points for theatricality, his use of "facts" leave something to be desired. According to a recent report issued by the Nogales Police Department, 459 major felony offenses were committed within city limits in 2010, down from 515 in 2009. Nogales Police Chief Jeffrey Kirkham adds. "The numbers were low to begin with. Anytime you have a reduction in felony crimes of double digits, you're looking at a pretty good year."

Furthermore according to the same report, there were no homicides or rapes reported in the city in 2010, closely mirroring 2009 when there were no homicides and one rape, and robberies remained unchanged at five. At the same time, aggravated assaults fell from 60 to 46, burglaries dropped from 137 to 112, and vehicle thefts declined from 135 to 97.

Put another way when using data from the Nogales Police Department City Yearly Crime Statistics has been even more successful to decrease crime in this border city. For example, the number of damaged properties decreased 64 percent from 2009 to 2011 while assaults decreased 31 percent and thefts dropped by five percent.

These figures are also of great alarm and surprise to Congressman Raul Grijalva, who notes: "Perception and politics. Most members of Congress come to the border, stand by the wall, take a picture and say I'm tough on illegal entrants and leave." Congressman Grijalva further noted that this should be an issue about job creation and that politicians should look to beefing up the border's ability to handle legal traffic north and south of the border for the business stimulus it brings.

The Mayor of Nogales Arturo Gariño has also expressed anger about these types of statements: "This damages our economy - driving visitors away and leaving our businesses and residents to suffer. The facts show that violent crime is down or remains flat in our border region."

At the end of the day the figures Rep. Chaffetz cites as from the Nogales Police Department do not actually comport with the crime statistics made available on the Nogales Police Department's website. Again, according to last year's report and figures from the Nogales Police Department website serious crime fell by 11% between 2009 and 2010. Here are some other facts for Rep. Chaffetz, Arizona does around $10.68 billion in trade with Mexico. How on earth can the Congressman from Utah, generalize this area as anything other then secure given the existing statistics and the level of trade which currently flows through the region? Short answer: he just read his talking points and didn't bother to check the facts.

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