El Paso is one of the safest cities in America. They have fewer murders there per capita than any city aside from Honolulu. How can this be? They have high poverty rates, and a high percentage of foreign born residents (who are likely there illegally). Also, the city sits right next door to Ciudad Juarez, which had 2,500 murders in the last 18 months alone. True, Texas in general has some of the laxest gun laws in the country, and folks would argue this is a major reason:
By conventional wisdom, El Paso, Texas should be one of the scariest cities in America. In 2007, the city’s poverty rate was a shade over 27 percent, more than twice the national average. Median household income was $35,600, well below the national average of $48,000. El Paso is three-quarters Hispanic, and more than a quarter of its residents are foreign-born. Given that it’s nearly impossible for low-skilled immigrants to work in the United States legitimately, it’s safe to say that a significant percentage of El Paso’s foreign-born population is living here illegally.
El Paso also has some of the laxer gun control policies of any non-Texan big city in the country, mostly due to gun-friendly state law. And famously, El Paso sits just over the Rio Grande from one of the most violent cities in the western hemisphere, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, home to a staggering 2,500 homicides in the last 18 months alone. A city of illegal immigrants with easy access to guns, just across the river from a metropolis ripped apart by brutal drug war violence. Should be a bloodbath, right?
Here’s the surprise: There were just 18 murders in El Paso last year, in a city of 736,000 people. To compare, Baltimore, with 637,000 residents, had 234 killings. In fact, since the beginning of 2008, there were nearly as many El Pasoans murdered while visiting Juarez (20) than there were murdered in their home town (23).
El Paso is among the safest big cities in America.
If it’s not the lax gun laws, then why is El Paso safe? Some researchers say it not in spite of, but because of the high percentage of immigrants.
So how has this city of poor immigrants become such an anomaly? Actually, it may not be an anomaly at all. Many criminologists say El Paso isn’t safe despite its high proportion of immigrants, it’s safe because of them.
“If you want to find a safe city, first determine the size of the immigrant population,” says Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. “If the immigrant community represents a large proportion of the population, you’re likely in one of the country’s safer cities. San Diego, Laredo, El Paso—these cities are teeming with immigrants, and they’re some of the safest places in the country.”
Read the rest at Reason.com (this article, by the way, is three years old)