El Paso, Texas — FBI violent crime data shows the border fence didn't change violent crime in El Paso, but it did have some effect on other crimes.
Speaking for the first time on this issue, El Paso police showed KFOX14 Chief investigative reporter Genevieve Curtis which crimes decreased.
Neighbors in the Lower Valley community remember a time when there wasn't a barrier between the two countries.
“I remember 20 years ago, you could see a lot of the immigrants run across the freeway,” Arturo Medina Jr. said.
“A lot of people feel insecure because of the nature (of) who (crosses) the fence,” Juan Apodaca said.
Sgt. Robert Gomez also remembers what it was like as a patrol officer in the Mission Valley in the '90s.
“Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday morning, we would be going and taking theft reports,” said Gomez.
It was lower-level crimes like petty theft that were prominent.
“Those types of crime are significant to the people who live there. It's important to them,” said Gomez.
Thieves, who knew how easy it was to steal, in one country and cross back to another.
“This has nothing to do with immigration. This has to do with opportunists. They were using that as a safe haven. It has to do with the logistics of how the border was set up,” said Gomez.
One of the most prevalent crimes in the city at that time was auto theft.
“You can steal a car and be in another country in minutes,” said Gomez.
KFOX14 Investigates went back through almost 40 years of crime data.
It shows in 1992 and 1993, there were around 5,500 reports of stolen cars in El Paso.
“The goal was to have less than a 100 auto thefts a week,” said Gomez.
Border patrol agents flooded the border under operation hold the line in 1993. The next year, reports of stolen cars dropped to 3,904.
Then to 2,753 in 2008, the year the border fence was built. There were 1,890 cases of auto theft in 2009 and by 2017, there were just 800 cases.
The department attributes the decline to not just the fence, but also the auto theft task force.
Burglary cases also decreased significantly from 7,655 in 1992 to 2,079 in 2008 and 1,297 in 2017.
Theft declined from nearly 30,000 cases in the early nineties, to 14,870 2008 and 10,429 in 2017.
At the same time, “El Paso has grown substantially,” said Gomez
The size of the department remains about the same.
“The human resource is the most important thing the department has,” said Gomez.
The physical barrier has changed the neighborhood.
“I think what we have now is just great,” said Medina
Gomez says it has assisted police in some ways.
“It does shift our resources, if we don't have to handle those types of calls that were coming in back then,” said Gomez.
But adds that it isn't the sole reason crime has decreased.
“Together the community plays a part in keeping us a safe city, it takes all of us, it’s not one thing vs another thing,” said Gomez.