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Border fence didn't make El Paso safer from violent crimes

Border fence

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters to "Ask El Paso if walls work."

So in tonight's "Spotlight on America," we takes an in-depth look at how the fence affects the city's safety.

In El Paso, the hustle and bustle of a bi-national community starts early.

Thousands cross the border daily at several ports of entry.

There is an orderly flow here.

Brandon Henderson says ranch hands on his family’s farm cross daily and return to Mexico at night.

“I have a lot of respect for the guys who do it the right way. They work really hard,” said Henderson.

People from Juarez, Mexico, come to work, to go to school and to shop in a city where people genuinely feel safe, thanks to law enforcement.

“They work so hard to protect us. We are so fortunate and blessed to live here,” said Debbie Hester.

“From 1 to 10, they get a 10,” said Alberton Ramirez Jr., of West El Paso.

The numbers will show you El Paso has always been safe.

"Well, because of police, and people are ... more conscious and behave better,” said Rogelio Gonzalez.

President Donald Trump claimed El Paso went from the one of the most dangerous cities in the country to one of the safest cities overnight because of the wall.

"No, I don't believe that. I think police are very effective, very good here,” said Luis Aguilar.

“The wall has made an impact,” said Ramirez.

“Absolutely not. All statistics show fences don’t work,” said Hester.

El Paso's violent crime was at its peak in 1992. What did make a difference was a flood of Border Patrol agents, who began Operation Hold the Line in 1993.

Hundreds of agents were stationed every few feet along the border.

Violent crime in El Paso drastically reduced in the years following.

“We've played a big part of that,” said Border Patrol Sector Chief Aaron Hull.

El Paso's violent crime rate was among the lowest in the country in the years 2005, 2006 and 2007, before the 18-foot fence was built.

The 57-mile fence was built in 2008.

FBI crime data shows violent crime rose again between 2007 and 2010, after the fence went up.

But for almost the last decade, El Paso has remained one of America’s safest cities.

“Along with our wonderful culture and our genuine friendliness and wonderfulness of our community is the government presence we have,” said Hester.

That may be why, for many who live in this border city, the solution isn't about higher fences, but rather, more bodies.

El Paso’s violent crime rate remains one of the lowest in the nation, while just across the fence, Juarez saw more than 1,200 homicides last year.

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