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US-Mexico border not more violent, analysis finds

While numerous U.S. officials have said violence along the U.S.-Mexico border fueled by drug trafficking poses an increasing threat to Americans, a review of data from more than 1,600 local and federal law enforcement agencies from California to Texas indicates that the violent crime has been declining for years.

USA Today reported in Thursday's editions that a review of more than a decade of crime data for border communities in the four states that abut Mexico – California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas -- indicated that violent crime rates have been declining for years – even before the current U.S. security buildup began. The newspaper also found that U.S. border cities were statistically safer on average than other cities in their respective states, and had maintained lower crime rates than the rest of the nation.

Numerous elected and law enforcement officials along the U.S. border have maintained  that violence associated with Mexican drug cartels, which has claimed at least 30,000  lives south of the border, is increasingly creeping into the U.S.

Most notably, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in April 2010 that border violence has gotten so bad there have been beheadings out in the Arizona desert – a statement she was later forced to recant.

And Texas Rep. Michael McCaul said during a recent congressional hearing. "It is not secure and it has never been more violent or dangerous than it is today. Anyone who lives down there will tell you that."

Other news reports focusing on specific cities or communities have anecdotally challenged those assertions, but the USA Today analysis is believed to be the first comprehensive review of the crime data along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Reporters Alan Gomez, Jack Gillum and Kevin Johnson spent four months reporting the story.