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Are Cities in Rio South Texas Safe?

Posted: 05/24/2012
Author: Raudel Garza
 

 

One of the first questions asked of economic development officials in our region during initial discussions with companies seeking to do business here or expand, relocate or start new enterprises always centers on border violence (or the perception thereof). Recently, I had the pleasure of addressing a group of about 25 students from The University of Texas – Pan American and The University of Texas – San Antonio. I spoke a bit about entrepreneurship, international trade, and overall economic conditions in Rio South Texas (the four southern-most counties in Texas). And guess what? The “elephant in the room” was once again the topic of border violence and crime.
                In addressing the question of border violence in our area, I informed the group that we had done an analysis of FBI crime stats collected for the 2009 Crime in the United States report. I told them that our analysis showed that when we combine the McAllen and Brownsville MSA’s (which happen to encompass most of our region), we ranked 180 out of 360 MSAs in terms of violent crime. Contrary to what many in the mainstream media say, our area is at or near the median for the country. I continued and told the group that most large Texas cities had crime rates much higher than our region, including Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The bright students then countered that comparing larger cities to our region wasn’t apples to apples. They’re correct, it isn’t the same.
                As a side note to any comparison using FBI crime stats, the FBI states:  
Figures used in this Report were submitted voluntarily by law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Individuals using these tabulations are cautioned against drawing conclusions by making direct comparisons between cities. Comparisons lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. It is important to remember that crime is a social problem and, therefore, a concern of the entire community. The efforts of law enforcement are limited to factors within its control. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual agencies. Further information on this topic can be obtained in the annual UCR report Crime in the United States, 2010.
                So, if we are cautioned against making city to city comparisons, what can we do? Well, I don’t know the answer to that, but I went ahead and made some comparisons based on the 2011 Semi-Annual FBI Crime Report, and found that we are still relatively safe compared to other cities of similar size. I didn’t do an intense analysis, but if you look at the data below, you can’t help but come to the same conclusion that I did. That conclusion is that we ARE relatively safe compared to other communities in the US that are not on the border. Based on these numbers, I challenge anyone to show that the mainstream media is correct and we are in a war zone. If that is the case, what does it say about the communities who have more crime than we do?
 
 

City
 
Population1
Violent
crime
Murder
Forcible
rape
Robbery
Aggravated
assault
Property
crime
Burglary
Larceny- theft
Motor
vehicle
theft
Arson2
BROWNSVILLE
2010
175,023
302
3
19
83
197
4,758
684
3,939
135
22
2011
 
244
0
15
50
179
4,174
493
3,584
97
8
GRAND PRAIRIE
2010
175,396
279
2
31
86
160
3,639
928
2,295
416
13
2011
 
327
4
40
112
171
3,597
844
2,310
443
20
CHATTANOOGA
2010
167,674
764
9
36
244
475
5,127
1,133
3,596
398
7
2011
 
695
9
28
186
472
5,142
1,288
3,475
379
7
NEWPORT NEWS
2010
180,719
498
10
46
184
258
3,175
623
2,331
221
42
2011
 
411
7
29
189
186
2,853
482
2,208
163
34

 

City
 
Population1
Violent
crime
Murder
Forcible
rape
Robbery
Aggravated
assault
Property
crime
Burglary
Larceny- theft
Motor
vehicle
theft
Arson2
MCALLEN
2010
129,877
158
4
6
62
86
3,679
361
3,075
243
7
2011
 
116
3
15
34
64
3,012
274
2,630
108
3
KILLEEN
2010
127,921
490
3
41
119
327
2,726
958
1,659
109
14
2011
 
434
8
42
95
289
2,833
1,154
1,560
119
22
MESQUITE
2010
139,824
234
5
5
75
149
3,128
688
2,075
365
10
2011
 
204
1
2
93
108
3,196
843
2,066
287
6
MIDLAND3
2010
111,147
175
1
22
34
118
1,905
448
1,375
82
3
2011
 
160
1
9
27
123
1,546
387
1,099
60
4
WACO
2010
124,805
465
4
33
89
339
3,190
909
2,178
103
15
2011
 
402
5
33
124
240
3,109
794
2,233
82
19

 

1 The 2010 population figures are the 2010 decennial counts from the U.S. Census Bureau. 
2 The FBI does not publish arson data unless it receives data from either the agency or the state for all 12 months for 2010 and/or 2011.
3 Because of changes in the state/local agency's reporting practices, figures are not comparable to previous years' data.

Those of us living here know that crime can happen anywhere. But we also know that the media doesn’t always get it right. I leave the final judgment up to the reader, but if you haven’t been here, I encourage you to come and visit. I think you’ll see that the things we like to brag about such as our quality of place, our abundant young labor force, our accessibility to markets, our location, and our pro-business environment truly do “hold water” and the “elephant in the room” isn’t really there.