The Stash

How Mexican Drug Homicides Are Good For Business

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This may only be of interest to fellow members of the El Paso diaspora, but it's pretty damn interesting to me. From today's Wall Street Journal

The violence in Mexico has provided an unexpected economic boost to El Paso, a city of more than 600,000 residents at the westernmost tip of Texas. The unemployment rate here was 9.8% in September, equal to the national average but far lower than in other border towns such as Brownsville and McAllen.

Cindy Ramos-Davidson, chief executive of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said her staff was swamped with requests from Juárez businesspeople wanting to settle in El Paso. They started more than 200 companies in the 12 months ended July 31, a 40% jump from the same period last year.

"It's the largest migration of wealthy Mexican nationals [to El Paso] since the Mexican Revolution," said Beto O'Rourke, an El Paso city councilman, referring to the decadelong rebellion that began in 1910. ...

The number of murders in Juárez exploded in the spring of 2008 and grew to more than 300 a month by August and September 2009, the highest monthly levels in a particularly violent year.

One migrant is Aril Anzures, who recently opened a branch of his family's burrito business on busy North Mesa Street in El Paso. After several kidnapping attempts, the Anzures family moved north earlier this year, though they still own seven restaurants in Mexico.

One question: My memory of living in El Paso (this would have been the 1980s) is that there was a correlation between crime on our side of the border and crime on the Mexican side. Crime rates on our side were usually lower, but typically rose when they rose in Juarez. Particularly theft--stolen cars and home break-ins were a big problem. But the Journal suggests this isn't happening:

[Anzures] said he didn't worry about his safety in El Paso, where Burritos Crisostomo offers the same freshly made flour tortillas and fillings as in Mexico. Many of his clients are fellow Juárez expatriates. Business is so good, said Mr. Anzures, that he expects to open another location in El Paso next month. ...

Despite fears of violence spilling across the border to El Paso, the city remains one of the safest in the nation for its size, according to federal statistics, with 10 homicides in 2009.

I think the likely explanation is that, to the extent crime spills over into El Paso, it tends to be less violent. If you're fleeing a spike in the homicide rate, a spike in the auto-theft rate may not seem so bad.

P.S. For what it's worth, here's a piece I once wrote about El Paso (and our iconic college basketball coach, Don Haskins).

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