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A border fence did not lower crime rates in El Paso. In fact, crime went up a bit.

During his State of the Union speech, President Trump tried to make the case for his border wall with wildly false claims about the Texas border city.

Sisters Kaydee Melendez (left) and Jennifer Melendez hold a banner during a march denouncing the border wall and calling for immigration reform in El Paso, Texas, on January 26, 2019.
Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump tried to make the case for his border wall Tuesday during his State of the Union address by repeating a lie about violent crime along the Texas-Mexico border.

“The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and [was] considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities,” Trump said.

Everything about that statement is wrong.

President Trump, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence looking on, delivers the State of the Union address on February 5, 2019.
Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

For one, El Paso was never considered one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. It’s actually had low violent crime rates for decades — long before the US Army Corps of Engineers began to build a steel fence along the Rio Grande in 2009.

The El Paso Times took a close look at the crime data in January, after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton first claimed that the border city had a high crime rate before the fence was constructed.

Using Uniform Crime Reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the rate of violent crime in El Paso can be calculated by combining data reported by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the El Paso Police Department.

Looking broadly at the last 30 years, the rate of violent crime reached its peak in 1993, when more than 6,500 violent crimes were recorded. Between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes fell by more than 34 percent and less than 2,700 violent crimes were reported. The border fence was authorized by Bush in 2006, but construction did not start until 2008.

The fence, therefore, played no role in lowering violent crime in El Paso. In fact, violent crime in the El Paso increased by 17 percent from 2006 to 2011. Contractors began building the 57-mile fence in 2008 and finished in 2009. Even then, in 2010, El Paso’s violent crime rate was among the lowest in the country for a city of its size.

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