Monday, January 12, 2009

And You Think We Have Problems

I was looking for a link to the video of a police shooting that I posted yesterday. Ryan left a comment that it happened late last year in El Paso. So, while merrily surfing and googling for something to use, I kept running into snippets about Juarez, Mexico, which is right across the river from El Paso in western Texas, and how bad the crime is. So I opened up this article in the El Paso Times.

You have no idea. It is awful, simply flipping awful.

The new year began much as the last one ended in Juárez - three homicides on new Year's Day.

Juárez had its most violent year in memory in 2008 as extortion, street shootings and beheadings became an almost daily occurrence because of a crime wave fueled by a war among drug cartels.

Chihuahua state police spokesman Arturo Sandoval said that a final tally on the number of homicides last year would not be available until later this week. But unofficially, 2008 ended with more than 1,600 homicides around Juárez.

Juárez officials said the city police force is in better shape than it was a year ago. It fired 300 officers deemed untrustworthy, grew to more than 1,600 officers and acquired needed firearms from the federal government.

The City of Juarez is a sister city of El Paso has a population of almost 2 million and is the fourth largest city in Mexico. El Paso has a population of about 607,000.

In that respect Juarez may be somewhat smaller than Houston, TX, (estimated 2007 population of 2.2 million) but it's homicides are more than double that of the entire State of New York.

In fact, you would have to add all the homicides committed in Pennsylvania (723) and New York (801) during 2007 to arrive at a figure almost as high as Juarez' homicides this year. Bear in mind that NY (19.3 million)and PA (12.4 million) have a combined population of 31.7 million souls.

The official travel guide site for Juarez tries to portray a very different portrait:

I say The Juarez Mexico Travel Guide is the only balanced source of information about Juarez Mexico currently available in the English language because the city has been demonized by the American press as the "City of Death", when the whole truth is much more complicated.

Every effort to bring the crime issue and the tragic reality of the serial killings here into perspective has been made on these pages: The People, Your Safety, and Great Evil Torments a Great People.

Please read them before you make up your mind about Juarez, Mexico.

I read those highlighted articles and I am sure that Juarez can be and is a lovely vacation/tourist destination and I am equally sure than many thousands of Americans have had a lovely time in Juarez.

But I also see that one of the problems is this: public safety in Juarez is drastically underserved.

Juarez has roughly 1,600 police officers.

Houston, which has a population fairly comparable with Juarez, maintains a police department staffed with 4,892 sworn officers and 1,446 civilian employees.

In 2007 Houston had 351 murders, just 22% those of Juarez (estimated at over 1,600). I do not believe that there was a single beheading in Houston that year.

Granted, we are dealing with 2007 homicide figures for American cities and States and 2008 Mexican estimates - but how far off can they be?

And how far off is help when you need it in Juarez? As stated in the article, the Mexican federal government had to supply the Juarez PD with firearms. If these poor cops didn't even have sidearms, what about police cars and mobile communications?

I shudder to think...

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