Police & Law Enforcement

The El Paso Safe City Lie

El Paso government officials for years have argued that El Paso is one of the safest cities in America, notwithstanding years of drug violence in its sister city, Cd. Juárez. El Paso officials routinely use the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program to tout the safest city designation, although the FBI states that the crime data it collects should not be used that way.

However, even the crime data the city publishes is clearly manipulated to continue the safest city lie.

Annually, the El Paso Police Department published its annual report reporting crime data among other police department information. In its annual reports, the police department uses two murder metrics. The first is labeled “Part 1 Crimes” and the second one is labeled “Index Crimes”. According to the FBI, Part 1 offenses are “are serious crimes,” that “occur with regularity in all areas of the country, and they are likely to be reported to police.” The FBI goes on to classify Part 1 homicides as the “willful” murder of someone. The FBI excludes attempted murders, the police killing of an individual in the performance of police duties and negligent and accidental deaths.

In 2017 and 2018, the police department stopped reporting the number of murders numerically and instead reported them as a percentage of the total of Part I crimes committed in the city. In 2019, the department again started reporting the number of murders in a numeric format.

El Paso Politics has analyzed the number of murders since 1960.

Data and graph compiled by Martín Paredes

In addition to the police annual reports, the City of El Paso also published an El Paso Murder Statistics 1960 – 2018 news release on January 16, 2019.

City of El Paso News Release – January 16, 2019

The press release was published in response to Donald Trump arguing that the border fence in El Paso contributed to a drop in serious crimes at the city. Beto O’Rourke used the city’s press release as his source when he held a press conference about the Walmart murders on August 3, 2019.

The other sources of murder data for El Paso is the FBI UCR data. The UCR data is contributed to the FBI by each police department.

Thus, there are three sources of the number of murders that can be used to analyze the number of murders each year in El Paso. However, it must be noted that although there are three sources of data, the underlining data comes directly from the City of El Paso via the police department’s data collection.

Knowing this then one would assume that the murder data on all three sources would be the same.

Murder Data Discrepancies

Unfortunately, the city’s three data sources are not the same.

For example, the city’s press release of January 2019 does not corollate with the data the city reported on the police department’s annual reports. For example, data for 2009, 2012, 2016 and 2017 does not present the same number of murders in the two versions of city’s own reports to the public.

In 2009, the police department’s annual report reported 12 murders, but the city’s 2019 press release stated that there were 13 murders in 2009. For 2012, the police department reported 23 murders, but the 2019 report showed 22 murders. Likewise, 2016, the police department reported 17 murders while the 2019 press notice reported 16 murders. In 2017, the police department reported 29 murders, but the city’s press release reported 20 murders for 2019.

Forty percent of the city’s own data is wrong.

The FBI UCR Data

The City also submits its murder data to the FBI’s UCR data project. Comparing the UCR data submitted to the FBI by the El Paso Police Department shows further discrepancies. For example, in its annual reports, the El Paso Police Department reported 17 murders for 2015 and 17 in 2016.

However, the FBI UCR shows that the police department reported 19 murders in 2015 and 21 murders in 2017.

There is a difference of 6 murders for both years or an almost 20% discrepancy.

However, even accepting the discrepancies the City reports is not a true picture of the number of murders in El Paso. This is because the police department is only part of the equation.

The True Number of Murders

El Paso is served by the El Paso Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department, school police forces like UTEP, EPCC and EPISD, in addition to other police forces like the Socorro Police Department.

Each of these agencies report the number of murders in their jurisdiction separately to the FBI.

In other words, of the El Paso Police Department is not investigating a murder, it does not count it as a murder in the city, although the murder occurred in El Paso.

Looking at the FBI’s UCR data for the different departments serving El Paso a clearer picture emerges of the true number of murders in the city.

In 2009, the murders reported to the FBI’s UCR were 16 from the agencies serving El Paso. In 2010, the number of murders were 7. In 2011 there were 18 murders reported by the agencies. In 2012, there were 28 murders. In 2013 and 2014, there were 12 and 25 murders reported, respectively. For 2015 and 2016 there were 23 murders reported each year. In 2017 there were 21 murders and in 2018 there were 31 murders reported in El Paso.

Comparing these to the murders reported by the City shows a discrepancy of almost 20%.

For example, the police department reported 163 murders for 2009 through 2018. In its press release of January 2019, the City reported 36 murders for the same period.

The truer number of murders according to the FBI data is 204 for the same period.

The City reported in its press release of January 2019 36 less murders than what the true number of murders the FBI has recorded for El Paso during the same period.

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