Improved border violence stats don’t include kidnapping, other crimes

| 5/11/2011

Recent statements by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security don’t reflect an accurate picture of what’s occurring on the United States side of the U.S.-Mexico border, several sheriffs and police chiefs said Wednesday.

For example: A 34-year-old Texas man was kidnapped a year ago by a drug cartel, and all police leads are cold.

Late last year, Phoenix experienced its first cartel beheading. Only last week cartel gunmen used a grenade launcher to hit a bus carrying employees of a U.S. toymaker in the northern Mexico city of Monterrey.

“We’re concerned with the increasing threat that the border is more insecure than it has ever been,” said Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, indirectly referencing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s March statement that border security was “better than ever.”

On Wednesday, May 11, McCraw; Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne; Zapata County, TX, Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez; and McAllen, TX, Police Chief Victor Rodriguez told a congressional panel that the border isn’t safe. They also said they worried about drug cartel violence that has already spilled over into the U.S.

“There are hit squad members of the cartels living in Texas,” McCraw said. “To say there isn’t violence and concern … cartels are using their own spike strips when they’re pursued in high-speed chases.”

The law enforcement officials were witnesses at a hearing of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee’s Investigations and Management Subcommittee. The hearing was titled “On the Border and in the Line of Fire: U.S. Law Enforcement, Homeland Security and Drug Cartel Violence.”

Gonzalez said his Texas county hasn’t seen much change for the positive when it comes to border violence.

“It’s not more secure than it has ever been,” Gonzalez said. “It’s getting more violent; smugglers are getting more brazen. They are getting orders to confront us. … We’re doing, unfortunately, the job of the federal government.”

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-TX, who chaired the hearing and acknowledged that Mexican cartels are in the U.S., asked: “At what point will the cartels cause violence here?”

Earlier this spring, McCaul proposed a bill that would formally name six Mexican drug cartels “terrorist organizations.”

“I don’t think we’re getting an accurate assessment here,” McCall said. “This administration is not giving the American people a complete picture of security on our border with Mexico. It is not ‘better now than it has ever been’ and the data on spillover crimes and violence is deceiving and underreported. Our state and local law enforcement on the front lines need help. Their firsthand accounts tell the real story of how we are outmanned, overpowered, and in danger of losing control of our own communities to narco-terrorists.”

McCaul said those who say the border is safer now point to an FBI study that shows some statistical crime categories as decreasing.

The same study, however, omits kidnappings, extortions and violence between traffickers.

“All I want is the truth, because if we’re excluding extortions, kidnappings and violence between traffickers, I don’t think we’re getting an accurate picture here,” McCaul said. “The stats aren’t honest.”

Rodriguez, the McAllen, TX police chief, said DHS statements about the border being safe haven’t rung true in his town, which borders Progresso, Mexico.

“I’m afraid that the basis for those statements – less border apprehensions – was determined to mean we’re bringing this under control,” Rodriguez said, “and that’s just not reliable.”