25 September 2011

The Difference A Border Makes

Mexico is in the midst of the worst wave of crime it has ever seen. The month one gang dumped thirty-five bodies of rival gang associates in a busy street during rush hour, seemingly with impunity.

Meanwhile, across the Rio Grande, the United States is experiencing a near record low in crime, nationwide.

Before jumping to ask why, it is worth first observing that national borders do matter, a lot, when it comes to crime rates. While it is premature simply to find some difference between the countries and say that it is the cause of the difference, there is a difference, and therefore, there is clearly some cause.

Nor is this cause precisely a regional one. At one point, Columbia was the epicenter of drug cartel violence. Now, it seems to be Mexico. There have been moments in time when the United States has had far higher levels of this kind of crime.

The U.S.-Mexico drug crime disparity is all the more odd because by almost all accounts, they are part of a single drug trade system. Drugs from Latin American are sold to users in the United States. The money and guns go to the South, the drugs go to the North. What keeps gang violence in Mexico from spilling over to the remainder of the distribution chain that seems to fuel it?

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