Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence [January 25, 2011]   [open pdf - 724KB]

"There has been an increase in the level of drug trafficking-related violence within and between the drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. This violence has generated concern among U.S. policy makers that the violence in Mexico might spill over into the United States. Currently, U.S. federal officials deny that the recent increase in drug trafficking-related violence in Mexico has resulted in a spillover into the United States, but they acknowledge that the prospect is a serious concern. The most recent threat assessment indicates that the Mexican drug trafficking organizations pose the greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States, and this threat is driven partly by U.S. demand for drugs. [...] Currently, no comprehensive, publicly available data exist that can definitively answer the question of whether there has been a significant spillover of drug trafficking-related violence into the United States. Although anecdotal reports have been mixed, U.S. government officials maintain that there has not yet been a significant spillover. In an examination of data that could provide insight into whether there has been a significant spillover in drug trafficking-related violence from Mexico into the United States, CRS [Congressional Research Service] analyzed violent crime data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report program. The data, however, do not allow analysts to determine what proportion of the violent crime rate is related to drug trafficking or, even more specifically, what proportion of drug trafficking-related violent crimes can be attributed to spillover violence. In conclusion, because the trends in the overall violent crime rate may not be indicative of trends in drug trafficking-related violent crimes, CRS is unable to draw definitive claims about trends in drug trafficking-related violence spilling over from Mexico into the United States."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R41075
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