NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 23, 2010

From his office window, El Paso mayor John Cook enjoys a clear view across the U.S.-Mexico border into Ciudad Juárez, birthplace of the famous maquiladora factories, where thousands of Mexicans are employed assembling products for export to the United States.  Only the Rio Grande separates the most dangerous city in Mexico (and perhaps the world) from one of the least dangerous cities in the United States, says National Review. 

  • In the first six months of 2010, Juárez experienced more than 1,300 homicides.
  • Over that same period, El Paso experienced one, a murder-suicide.  

According to the latest CQ Press rankings of America's safest cities with more than 500,000 people, El Paso is second only to Honolulu.  Those rankings reflect 2008 crime data: 

  • Between 2008 and 2009 -- when the violence in Juárez absolutely exploded -- the annual number of murders in El Paso dropped by 28 percent, falling from 18 to 13.
  • El Paso police spokesman Darrel Petry reports that, through June 15, robberies were down by 5 percent, burglaries were down by 13 percent, and car thefts were down by 18 percent from their 2009 levels.  

The fact that El Paso suffered only one murder in the first half of 2010 is nothing short of astounding, says National Review.  So how did El Paso achieve such impressive security gains, and how has it managed to preserve them amid the drug-fueled carnage next door? 

Cook credits ''neighborhood policing,'' the crime-fighting strategy that El Paso adopted under Chief Scagno, the city's top cop from 1987 to 1995.  It entailed launching interactive partnerships between officers and residents, with a localized approach.  One of the main goals, says Scagno, was to effect an ''attitude change'' among both the police and the citizenry.  ''The more the citizens worked with us, the more we were able to get prosecutions.''  In a largely Hispanic city, he adds, police had to convince illegal immigrants that reporting a crime would not result in automatic deportation.  Fostering trust was essential. 

Scagno also created special units to tackle gang violence and car thefts, each of which delivered positive results.  Since Cook became mayor in 2005, El Paso has made a serious push to increase and enhance its neighborhood associations, thereby strengthening its community-policing efforts. 

Source: Duncan Currie, ''The war next door,'' National Review, July 9, 2010.


Browse more articles on Government Issues