Homicide Rates in Mexican Border Cities Much Higher than in US Counterparts

Municipal police at the scene where four people were killed at a restaurant in Ciudad Juárez on June 16, 2022. Photo: Google


A few days after U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar warned that growing insecurity across a number of Mexican states could have a negative impact on foreign investment in the country, Mexican daily newspaper Reforma released a report on Sunday, Aug. 28, detailing the contrasting homicide rates between cities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, based on data from 2020.

While the highest incidence of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants reached 11.5 in Yuma in Arizona, which was the least-safest border city in the United States based on the 2020 data, in contrast, Ciudad Juárez in the northwestern Mexico state of Chihuahua reached 137 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. On the other hand, El Paso, Ciudad Juárez’s counterpart city across the border, only recorded 4.1 cases.

San Luis Río Colorado, Yuma’s counterpart in Mexico, recorded 33.7 cases, 22.2 homicides fewer than its sister city. Going down the list shows an alarming trend: Mexican cities had far more incidents of murder than their counterpart cities across the U.S. border.

Calexico in Imperial County, California, recorded zero homicides to an average of 12 in Mexicali, Baja California, while Nogales, Arizona, likewise recorded zero murders to the 45 of Nogales, Sonora. Another city in Arizona, Douglas, also recorded no homicides in 2020, in contrast to an average of eight in Agua Prieta, Sonora.

A map showing homicide rates per 100,000 inhabitants in U.S. and Mexican border cities in 2020. Photo: Reforma

Rounding out the list are the Mexican border cities of Piedras Negras, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros, which had an average of 13, 18, 24 and five homicides, respectively, in contrast to their counterpart cities across the border — Eagle Pass, Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville, respectively — which averaged three, four two and three murders per 100,000 inhabitants. The data on homicides in U.S. cities was calculated based on the 2020 Uniform Crime Report of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Census Bureau, while in the case of Mexican cities, data and statistics reported by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) were used.

On Friday, Aug.19, after the U.S. Department of State updated its travel alerts to Mexico due to problems of insecurity and violence, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) asked the United States to “respect Mexican sovereignty” and criticized the issuance of these warnings.

“How many unfortunate acts of violence are there in the United States, assaults, shootings?” López Obrador said. “Did we find out? Do we send notices and warnings to Mexicans not to travel to the United States, to certain states? No.”

Journalist, author and professor Silvio Canto Jr., in an opinion piece on Wednesday, Aug. 24, wrote that “Down in Mexico, the word is ‘homicides’” and criticized López Obrador’s controversial “hugs not bullets” approach to fighting crime by saying that “it’s time for AMLO to stop hugging and do a little punching.”

“Just as a point of reference — especially for those who say that someone in the United States should not be casting the first stone when it comes to murder statistics — here in the United States there were a total of 20,920 homicides in 2021, while in Mexico — a country with less than half the population of the United States — there were 36,625 homicides last year,” he wrote.

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