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Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
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CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in
Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
Jennifer E. Lake, Coordinator
Analyst in Domestic Security
Kristin M. Finklea, Coordinator
Analyst in Domestic Security
Mark Eddy
Specialist in Social Policy
Celinda Franco
Specialist in Crime Policy
Chad C. Haddal
Analyst in Immigration Policy
William J. Krouse
Specialist in Domestic Security and Crime Policy
Mark A. Randol
Specialist in Domestic Intellengence and Counter-Terrorism
February 16, 2010
Congressional Research Service
7-5700
http://www.crs.gov
R41075
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
Congressional Research Service
Summary
There has been a recent 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. Mexican drug trafficking organizations are the major suppliers and key
producers of most illegal drugs smuggled into the United States across the Southwest border
(SWB). The nature of the conflict between the Mexican drug trafficking organizations in Mexico
has manifested itself, in part, as a struggle for control of these smuggling routes into the United
States. Further, in an illegal marketplace—such as that of illicit drugs—where prices and profits
are elevated due to the risks of operating outside the law, violence or the threat of violence
becomes the primary means for settling disputes.
When assessing the potential implications of the increased violence in Mexico, one of the central
concerns for Congress is the potential for what has been termed “spillover” violence—an increase
in drug trafficking-related violence in United States. While the interagency community has
defined spillover violence as violence targeted primarily at civilians and government entities—
excluding trafficker-on-trafficker violence—other experts and scholars have recognized
trafficker-on-trafficker violence as central to spillover. When defining and analyzing changes in
drug trafficking-related violence within the United States to determine whether there has been (or
may be in the future) any spillover violence, critical elements include who may be implicated in
the violence (both perpetrators and victims), what type of violence may arise, when violence may
appear, and where violence may occur (both along the SWB and in the nation’s interior).
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 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.
This report will be updated as circumstances warrant.
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
Congressional Research Service
Contents
Introduction ...............................................................................................................................1
The Southwest Border Region and the Illicit Drug Trade Between the United States and
Mexico ...................................................................................................................................2
Demand for Drugs in the United States..................................................................................3
Supply of Illegal Drugs from Mexico ....................................................................................3
Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations...............................................................................5
Partnerships in the United States .....................................................................................9
Activities ......................................................................................................................10
Relationship Between Illicit Drug Markets and Violence ........................................................... 11
What Is Spillover Violence? ......................................................................................................12
Characteristics of Spillover Violence...................................................................................13
Who May Be Implicated in Violence.............................................................................13
What Type of Violence May Arise.................................................................................15
When Violence May Appear..........................................................................................15
Where Violence May Occur ..........................................................................................16
Challenges in Evaluating and Responding to Spillover Violence................................................17
Complexity of the Issue.......................................................................................................17
Defining Goals and Objectives ............................................................................................18
Measuring the Problem .......................................................................................................19
Is There Spillover Violence? ...............................................................................................19
Analysis.......................................................................................................................20
Conclusion...............................................................................................................................24
Figures
Figure 1. Drug Routes Within Mexico and at the United States-Mexico Border ...........................6
Figure 2. U.S. Cities Reporting the Presence of Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations............8
Figure 3. Violent Crime Rate in Selected MSAs ........................................................................22
Figure 4. Violent Crime Rate in Selected Southwest Border MSAs............................................23
Figure A-1. OCDETF Cases Referred to the USAOs, by Federal Agency ..................................40
Figure A-2. OCDETF Case Filings and Convictions ..................................................................41
Tables
Table 1. U.S. Illegal Drug Seizures Along the Southwest Border .................................................5
Appendixes
Appendix. Selected U.S. Efforts and Issues ...............................................................................26
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
Congressional Research Service
Contacts
Author Contact Information ......................................................................................................42
Key Policy Staff .......................................................................................................................42
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
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Introduction
There has been a recent increase in the level of drug trafficking-related violence within and
between the drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) in Mexico—a country with which the United
States shares a nearly 2,000-mile border.1 Some estimates have placed the number of drug
trafficking-related deaths in Mexico since January 2007 at over 14,000.2 Mexican media
estimates have placed this death toll around 7,300 for 2009 alone. Further, Mexico’s most violent
city, Ciudad Juarez—with about 2,100 murders in 2009—is located directly across the border
from El Paso, TX. 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.3 As an
extension of its counternarcotics policy, as well as in response to the possibility of violence
spillover, the U.S. government is supporting Mexico’s crackdown campaign against drug cartels
in Mexico through the Mérida Initiative.4 It is also enhancing border security programs and
reducing the movement of contraband (drugs, money, and weapons) in both directions across the
Southwest border.
When discussing drug trafficking-related violence in the United States, one important point to
note is that the mere presence of Mexican drug trafficking organizations in the United States is
not in and of itself an indication of the spillover of Mexican drug trafficking-related violence in
the United States. While their presence may be an indication of the drug problem in general, it
does not necessarily reflect activity directly tied to the recent violence seen in Mexico. The DTOs
(Mexican and others) have been developing sophisticated illicit drug smuggling and trafficking
networks for years. These activities engender violence and associated criminal activity, not just
along the border but in other areas throughout the country, such as along domestic interstate
distribution networks and in major metropolitan areas.5 The United States has experienced levels
of drug trafficking-related crime for many years.6 The immediate question confronting policy
makers is whether the increasing violence between the drug trafficking organizations in Mexico
affects either the level or character of drug trafficking-related violence in the United States. A
1 See, for example, “Congress Discusses Increasing Drug Violence in Mexico,” Voice of America, March 11, 2009.
2 For more information on the drug-related violence in Mexico, see CRS Report R40582, Mexico’s Drug-Related
Violence , by June S. Beittel.
3 See for example, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Remarks by Secretary Napolitano at the Border Security
Conference,” press release, August 11, 2009, http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/speeches/sp_1250028863008.shtm and Arthur
H. Rotstein, “Bersin: Mexican drug violence threat major concern,” The Associated Press, July 15, 2009, quoting Alan
Bersin, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Special Representative of Border Affairs.
4 The Mérida Initiative is a multi-year proposal for $1.4 billion in U.S. counterdrug and anticrime assistance to Mexico
and Central America. The details of the Mérida Initiative will not be discussed in this report; for more information,
please see CRS Report R40135, Mérida Initiative for Mexico and Central America: Funding and Policy Issues, by
Clare Ribando Seelke.
5 Drug Enforcement Administration, Statement of Joseph M. Arabit Special Agent in Charge, El Paso Division,
Regarding “Violence Along the Southwest Border” Before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on
Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, March 24, 2009, http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/speeches/s032409.pdf.
6 The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program, for instance, has been operating since
1982 to combat major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. For more information on the OCDETF
Program, see http://www.justice.gov/dea/programs/ocdetf.htm. The trends in drug trafficking-related crime across the
United States are currently unknown because federal law enforcement agencies do not systematically track and report
drug trafficking related crimes.
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
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related question is whether evidence of spillover violence would necessitate a policy response
from Congress qualitatively different from the current efforts to combat drug trafficking.
This report focuses on how policy makers would identify any spillover of drug trafficking-related
violence into the United States. This report provides (1) an overview of Mexican drug trafficking
organization structures, how they conduct business, and the relationship between the drug
trafficking organizations in Mexico and their partnerships operating here in the United States; (2)
a discussion of the illicit drug trade between Mexico and the United States, as well as a discussion
of factors implicated in drug trafficking-related violence; (3) an analysis of the possible nature of
any spillover violence that may arise, as well as issues involved in accurately identifying and
measuring such violence; and (4) an evaluation of available crime rate data and a discussion of
how this data may or may not reflect changes in drug trafficking-related crime. This report does
not include a discussion of illicit drug enforcement issues,7 nor does it include specific policy
options that may be considered to stem a potential uptick in drug trafficking-related violence. The
Appendix describes selected recent U.S. efforts undertaken to address the possibility of spillover
violence and the drug control problem.
The Southwest Border Region and the Illicit Drug
Trade Between the United States and Mexico
The nature of the conflict between the Mexican DTOs in Mexico has manifested itself, in part, as
a struggle for control of the smuggling routes into the United States.8 Therefore, the prospects for
spillover violence are most keenly anticipated in the Southwest border (SWB) region of the
United States because the region represents the arrival zone for the vast majority of illicit drugs
that are smuggled into the country. The size, geography, and climate of the SWB region have long
presented unique challenges to law enforcement. The southern border with Mexico stretches
nearly 2,000 miles in length, is sparsely populated in some areas, and is dotted with legitimate
crossing points (ports of entry)—both large and small. The National Drug Threat Assessment,
2008, summarized the illicit drug threat scenario along the SWB in stark terms:
The Southwest Border Region is the most significant national-level storage, transportation,
and transshipment area for illicit drug shipments that are destined for drug markets
throughout the United States. The region is the principal arrival zone for most drugs
smuggled into the Unites States; more illicit drugs are seized along the Southwest Border
than in any other arrival zone. Mexican DTOs have developed sophisticated and expansive
drug transportation networks extending from the Southwest Border to all regions of the
United States. They smuggle significant quantities of illicit drugs through and between ports
of entry (POEs) along the Southwest Border and store them in communities throughout the
region. Most of the region’s principal metropolitan areas, including Dallas, El Paso,
Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, and San Diego, are significant storage
7 For more information, see CRS Report R40732, Federal Domestic Illegal Drug Enforcement Efforts: Are They
Working? by Celinda Franco.
8 In addition, the drug related violence in Mexico is also resulting from a struggle between the drug trafficking
organizations and the Mexican government attempting to crack down on the DTOs. For more information, see Scott
Stewart and Alex Posey, Mexico: The War with the Cartels in 2009, Stratfor Global Intelligence, November 9, 2009,
http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20091209_...rtels_2009.
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
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locations as well as regional and national distribution centers. Mexican DTOs and criminal
groups transport drug shipments from these locations to destinations throughout the country.9
The most recent threat assessment indicates that the Mexican drug trafficking organizations pose
the greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States.10 Demand for illicit drugs in the United
States partly drives this threat.
Demand for Drugs in the United States
The United States is the largest consumer of illegal drugs and sustains a multi-billion dollar
market in illegal drugs.11 According to the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States is the
largest consumer of Colombian-produced cocaine and heroin, as well as a large consumer of
Mexican-produced heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine.12
The latest National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH),13 in 2008, surveyed
individuals aged 12 and older regarding their drug use during the previous month. Survey results
indicated that an estimated 20.1 million individuals were current (past month) illegal drug users,
representing 8% of this population. This percentage of users had remained relatively stable since
2002.14 Among these drug users, marijuana was the most commonly used drug, with an estimated
15.2 million users (6.1% of the population), followed by nonmedical use of prescription-type
psychotherapeutic drugs (6.2 million users, or 2.5% of individuals). The survey also estimated
that there were 1.9 million users of cocaine (0.7% of Americans), as well as 1.1 million users of
hallucinogens (0.4% of the population)—of which 555,000 reported use of Ecstasy. Results also
estimated 314,000 methamphetamine users.
Supply of Illegal Drugs from Mexico
Mexican drug trafficking organizations are the major suppliers and key producers15 of most
illegal drugs smuggled into the United States across the SWB. Moreover, Mexico is the major
transit country for cocaine, according to the U.S. State Department; as much as 90% of the
cocaine consumed in the United States comes through Mexico.16 Further, cocaine trafficking is
9 U.S. Department of Justice, National Drug Intelligence Center, National Drug Threat Assessment, 2008, Product No.
2007-Q0317-003, October 2007, p. v, http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs25/25921/25921p.pdf. Hereinafter, NDTA, 2008.
10 U.S. Department of Justice, National Drug Intelligence Center, National Drug Threat Assessment 2009, Product No.
2008-Q0317-005, December 2008, p.III, http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs31/31379/31379p.pdf. Hereinafter, NDTA,
2009.
11 Oriana Zill and Lowell Bergman, “Do the Math: Why the Illegal Drug Business is Thriving,” PBS Frontline,
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/.
12 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, World Fact Book, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications...dfactbook/
index.html.
13 NSDUH is an annual survey of approximately 67,500 people, including residents of households, noninstitutionalized
group quarters, and civilians living on military bases. The survey is administered by the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is
available at http://oas.samhsa.gov/NSDUHlatest.htm.
14 According to the NSDUH, within the period 2002 - 2008, the annual percentage of illicit drug users in the 12 and
older age group ranged from 7.9% to 8.3%.
15 Mexican DTOs distribute cocaine (produced primarily in Colombia), and they produce as well as distribute heroin,
methamphetamine, and marijuana.
16 U.S. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, 2009 International
(continued...)
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
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the leading drug threat17 in the United States, according to the NDIC’s 2009 National Drug Threat
Assessment.18 According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), cocaine availability
was lower in 2007 and 2008 (relative to 2005 and 2006) in certain areas of the United States for a
number of reasons, including cocaine eradication, cocaine seizures, pressure on drug trafficking
organizations in Mexico, inter-cartel violence, and border security.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations are also the main foreign suppliers of marijuana and
methamphetamine in the United States. There was a decline in seizures of Mexican-produced
methamphetamine beginning in 2006 and continuing in 2007 and 2008, in part because of
Mexican import restrictions on precursor drugs beginning in 2005, as well as because some
Mexican-based methamphetamine producers have more recently moved their laboratories into the
United States.19 Despite the declines in the presence of Mexican-produced cocaine and
methamphetamine, there was an increase in the flow of Mexican-produced marijuana to the
United States in 2007,20 as well as an increase in distribution of Mexican-produced heroin
(particularly in the eastern and northeastern states).21
The true quantity of drugs produced and transported by Mexican drug trafficking organizations,
however, is unknown. Available data provide insight into the quantity of drugs seized along the
SWB, though this data cannot speak to the total amount of drugs produced and/or transported into
the United States, nor does it provide information about the proportion of these drugs that are
actually seized along the SWB. For instance, Table 1 illustrates federal seizures of illegal drugs
along the SWB for calendar years (CY) 2003-2008. Total cocaine seizures along the SWB
decreased in 2007 and 2008 relative to previous years when cocaine seizures had been increasing.
Additionally in 2008, cannabis seizures along the SWB decreased while seizures of heroin and
methamphetamine seizures increased over 2007 levels. These data, however, do not provide
insight into the total amount of drugs illegally produced and transported by the DTOs. Rather, this
data reflect an unknown proportion of drugs that the Mexican drug trafficking organizations are
bringing into the United States through a variety of transportation modes.
(...continued)
Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), vol. 1, March 2009, p. 414.
17 The NDTA indicates that “[t]he relative threat posed by a specific drug requires a subjective analytic assessment
based on many considerations, such as the cost of interdiction, seizure, and eradication; the number of individuals using
or addicted to the drug; the level of availability in U.S. drug markets; the extent and organization of distribution groups;
the level of violence associated with distribution and use of the drug; the level of property crime associated with use of
the drug; and the level of involvement by international drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and gangs.” NDTA,
2009, p. IV.
18 NDTA, 2009, p. 1. This threat is not based on the availability or current use of cocaine in the United States;
marijuana, not cocaine, is the most commonly-seized drug along the Southwest Border (see Table 1), and the NSDUH
indicated that marijuana was the most commonly used illegal drug.
19 Ibid., p. 9.
20 Ibid., p. 21.
21 Ibid., p. 26.
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
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Table 1. U.S. Illegal Drug Seizures Along the Southwest Border
(in metric tons)
CY2003 CY2004 CY2005 CY2006 CY2007 CY2008
Heroin 0.3 0.4 0.2 0.5 0.4 0.6
Cocaine 16.3 22.0 22.7 28.2 20.9 16.1
Cannabis 1201.0 1106.6 1025.7 1132.0 1367.8 1254.4
Methamphetamine 1.9 2.9 2.9 2.8 1.7 2.2
Total 1219.5 1131.9 1051.5 1163.5 1390.8 1273.3
Source: US DEA, in response to CRS request, March 27, 2008 and March 31, 2009.
The 2009 National Drug Threat Assessment indicates that Mexican drug trafficking organizations,
in addition to being the major supplier of illegal drugs being smuggled into the United States, also
have a strong presence within the United States.22
Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations23
Mexican drug trafficking organizations are transnational organized crime groups24 whose criminal
activities center primarily around the drug trade. In general, organized crime groups attempt to fill
particular illicit market niches. Specifically, DTOs respond to the societal demand for illegal
drugs. Some experts have likened drug trafficking organizations to corporations or even small
nation-states. They are influenced by factors such as geography, politics, economics, and
culture.25 Geographically, for example, Mexican DTOs are situated between the world’s largest
producer of cocaine (Colombia) and the world’s largest consumer of cocaine (United States),
leading Mexico to be a natural drug transshipment route between the two countries.26 In addition,
major Mexican criminal organizations focus primarily (though not exclusively) on drugs, because
the drug trade has, to date, generally proven to be more economically lucrative than other illicit
activities such as kidnapping and extortion.27
22 Ibid., p. 45.
23 The terms drug trafficking organization (DTO) and drug cartel are terms often used interchangeably. Cartel is one of
the dominant terms used colloquially and in the press, but some experts disagree with using this term because “cartel”
often refers to price-setting groups and because it is not clear that the Mexican drug trafficking organizations are setting
illicit drug prices. For the purpose of consistency, this report uses the term drug trafficking organization. For more
information on the Mexican DTOs, see archived CRS Report RL34215, Mexico’s Drug Cartels, by Colleen W. Cook.
For information on the current violence between the DTOs in Mexico, see CRS Report R40582, Mexico’s Drug-
Related Violence, by June S. Beittel.
24 For more information on organized crime in the United States, see CRS Report R40525, Organized Crime in the
United States: Trends and Issues for Congress, by Kristin M. Finklea.
25 Stratfor Global Intelligence, Mexican Drug Cartels: The Net Assessment, March 9, 2008, http://www.stratfor.com/
podcast/mexican_drug_cartels_net_assessment.
26 Stratfor Global Intelligence, Organized Crime in Mexico, March 11, 2008, http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/
organized_crime_mexico.
27 Ibid. Refer to the section in the report, “Activities,” for more information on other illicit activities engaged in by the
drug trafficking organizations.
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Mexican drug trafficking organizations either (1) transport or (2) produce and transport drugs
north across the United States-Mexico border.28 Figure 1 illustrates the drug trafficking routes
within Mexico and at the United States-Mexico border. After being smuggled across the border
by DTOs, the drugs are distributed and sold within the United States. The illicit proceeds may
then be laundered or smuggled south across the border. The proceeds may also be used to
purchase weapons in the United States that are then smuggled into Mexico.29 This leads to a
general pattern of drugs flowing north across the border and money and guns flowing south.
Figure 1. Drug Routes Within Mexico and at the United States-Mexico Border
Source: Fred Burton and Ben West, When the Mexican Drug Trade Hits the Border, Stratfor Global Intelligence,
April 15, 2009, http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20090415_...its_border.
Although Mexican drug trafficking organizations have been active for some time, they have
become more prominent since the decline of the powerful Colombian drug trafficking
organizations beginning in the 1980s.30 The NDIC estimates that Mexican drug trafficking
organizations maintain drug distribution networks—or supply drugs to distributors in at least 230
U.S. cities (as illustrated in Figure 2)—and annually transport multi-ton quantities of illicit drugs
28 As mentioned, Mexican DTOs distribute cocaine (produced in Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil), and they produce
as well as distribute heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana.
29 For more information on gun trafficking on the Southwest border, see CRS Report R40733, Gun Trafficking and the
Southwest Border, by Vivian S. Chu and William J. Krouse.
30 Stratfor Global Intelligence, Organized Crime in Mexico, March 11, 2008, http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/
organized_crime_mexico. See also archived CRS Report RL34215, Mexico’s Drug Cartels, by Colleen W. Cook.
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from Mexico into the United States using a variety of multi-modal transportation methods.31
Estimates are that these drugs generate between $18 billion and $39 billion in U.S. wholesale
drug proceeds for the Colombian and Mexican drug trafficking organizations annually.32
31 NDTA, 2009., p. 45.
32 NDTA, 2009., p. 49. According to ONDCP data, the trafficking and distribution of cocaine generates about $3.9
billion, marijuana generates about $8.5 billion, and methamphetamine generates about $1 billion. Jane's, Security,
Mexico, February 20, 2009.
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CRS-8
Figure 2. U.S. Cities Reporting the Presence of Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations
January 1, 2006-April 8, 2008
Source: National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), National Drug Threat Assessment, 2009, Map A5. U.S. cities reporting the presence of Mexican DTOs, January 1,
2006, through September 30, 2008, U.S. Department of Justice, Product No. 2008-Q0317-005, December 2008, http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs31/31379/
appenda.htm#Map5.
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When conceptualizing Mexican drug trafficking organizations as businesses, policy makers may
question the impact of possible drug trafficking-related violence spillover (into the United States)
on the drug trafficking business—selling drugs in the U.S. black market. Although the effects of
violence on businesses in the black market may not mirror those effects on business in the licit
market, one way of examining this question may be to look at the impact that violence or violent
crimes have on business in general. One recent study, for example, examined the impact of surges
in violence on businesses in various industries in locations of varying crime rates.33 Results
suggested that surges in violence had the most negative impact on those businesses that were
service-related (e.g., retail and personal service industries) and located in typically low-crime
areas. Specifically, the impact on business was in terms of a reduction in the number of new
businesses, a decrease in business expansions, and a lack of overall business growth. In order to
generalize these findings from retail businesses to drug businesses, one underlying assumption
must be that the locations for buying retail goods and personal services are the same as those for
purchasing drugs. If these findings are generalizable to the drug trafficking business, this could
suggest that any spillover in drug trafficking-related violence to the United States could adversely
affect those service-related businesses (including drug trafficking businesses) in cities with
relatively (pre-spillover) low crime rates. On the other hand, if violence affects businesses in the
licit and illicit markets differently, these findings may not apply to potential effects of drug
trafficking-related violence on drug trafficking business.
Already, there have been anecdotal predictions regarding the impact of violence on drug
trafficking business; Douglas, AZ, police chief Alberto Melis has said that “spillover violence
would be bad for business ... and they’re [the drug traffickers] businessmen.”34 Further, the Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) has expressed moderate confidence that there will not be a
significant increase in spillover violence—at least in the short term—because “Mexican
trafficking organizations understand that intentional targeting of U.S. persons or interests
unrelated to the drug trade would likely undermine their own business interests.”35
Partnerships in the United States
The NDIC has indicated that in order to facilitate the distribution and sale of drugs in the United
States, Mexican drug trafficking organizations have formed relationships with U.S. street gangs,
prison gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs.36 Although these gangs have historically been
involved with retail-level drug distribution, their ties to the Mexican drug trafficking
organizations have allowed them to become increasingly involved at the wholesale level as well.37
These gangs facilitate the movement of illicit drugs to urban, suburban, and rural areas of the
United States. Not only do these domestic gangs distribute and sell the drugs, but they also aid in
33 Robert T. Greenbaum and George E. Tita, “The Impact of Violence Surges on Neighbourhood Business Activity,”
Urban Studies, vol. 41, no. 13 (December 2004), pp. 2495-2514.
34 Brady McCombs and Tim Steller, “Drug Violence Spillover More Hype Than Reality: Southern Arizona Lawmen
Discount Threat of Cartel Warfare Crossing Border,” Arizona Daily Star, April 26, 2009, Tucson Region.
35 Drug Enforcement Administration, Statement of Joseph M. Arabit Special Agent in Charge, El Paso Division,
Regarding “Violence Along the Southwest Border” Before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on
Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, March 24, 2009, http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/speeches/s032409.pdf.
36 NDTA, 2009, p. 46.
37 Wholesale refers to the sale of goods to retailers for resale to consumers rather than selling goods directly to
consumers. Retailers, on the other hand, sell goods directly to consumers. Wholesalers tend to sell larger quantities of
goods to retailers, who then sell smaller quantities to consumers.
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
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smuggling and enforcing the collection of drug proceeds.38 For example, Barrio Azteca is one of
at least nine prominent U.S. prison gangs with ties to Mexican drug trafficking organizations.39
Barrio Azteca primarily generates money from smuggling marijuana, heroin, and cocaine across
the Southwest border for the drug trafficking organizations, but they are also involved in other
crimes, such as extortion, kidnapping, and alien smuggling.40
Activities
Like other organized crime groups, Mexican drug trafficking organizations are profit-driven.
While the primary goods trafficked by drug trafficking organizations are drugs, some experts
have noted that these organizations do generate income from other illegal activities, such as the
smuggling41 of humans and weapons, counterfeiting and piracy, kidnapping for ransom, and
extortion.42 If the drug trafficking organizations are not able to generate income from the drugs—
due to any number of reasons (increased Mexican or U.S. law enforcement, decreased drug
supply, decreased drug demand, etc.)—they may increase their involvement in other moneygenerating
illegal activities, such as kidnapping and home invasions. Take, for example, the
number of drug trafficking-related kidnappings for ransom in Phoenix, AZ.43 The NDIC reported
358 such incidents in 2007 and 357 in 2008 (through December 15, 2008), and indicated that
nearly every incident was drug-related.44 Further, the NDIC reports that these numbers may be
underreported because victims may fear retaliation for reporting or may expose their own
involvement in drug trafficking. Still, Tucson, AZ, police have reported that although there has
been an increase in kidnappings for ransom and home invasions, the suspects in the cases are
local criminals—not active drug trafficking organization members from Mexico.45 This disparity
in reports indicates that while there may be an increase in certain illegal activities that may be tied
38 NDTA, 2009., pp. 43-46. See also, National Gang Intelligence Center and National Drug Intelligence Center,
National Gang Threat Assessment, 2009, Product No. 2009-M0335-001, January 2009, http://www.fbi.gov/
publications/ngta2009.pdf.
39 Fred Burton and Ben West, The Barrio Azteca Trial and the Prison Gang-Cartel Interface, Stratfor Global
Intelligence, November 19, 2008, http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/
20081119_barrio_azteca_trial_and_prison_gang_cartel_interface.
40 For more information, see Tom Diaz, “Barrio Azteca—Border Boys Linked to Mexican Drug Trafficking
Organizations—Part Three,” April 17, 2009, http://tomdiaz.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/barrioazteca%
E2%80%93border-bad-boys-linked-to-mexican-drug-trafficking-organizations-%E2%80%94-part-three/. See
also the U.S. Department of Justice website at http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/gangunit/g...rison.html.
41 While drug trafficking organizations may not be directly involved in alien or gun smuggling, they may tax the
smugglers who wish to use the established drug trafficking routes. Further, the NDIC has indicated that drug trafficking
organizations may engage in violent confrontations with the smuggling organizations, as the drug traffickers fear that
the smugglers’ use of their routes may lead to the traffickers’ apprehension. See National Drug Intelligence Center,
Office of National Drug Control Policy, Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area: Drug Market Analysis 2009,
Product No. 2009-R0813-002, March 2009, p.14, http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs32/32762/32762p.pdf.
42 Jane's, Security, Mexico, February 20, 2009. Also, Stratfor Global Intelligence, Mexican Drug Cartels: The Net
Assessment, March 9, 2008, http://www.stratfor.com/podcast/mexican_...assessment.
43 Sam Quinones, “Phoenix, Kidnap-For-Ransom Capital,” Los Angeles Times, February 12, 2009. See also, National
Drug Intelligence Center, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area: Drug
Market Analysis 2009, Product No. 2009-R0813-002, March 2009, http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs32/32762/
32762p.pdf.
44 Ibid., p. 18.
45 Brady McCombs and Tim Steller, “Drug violence spillover more hype than reality: Southern Arizona lawmen
discount threat of cartel warfare crossing border,” Arizona Daily Star, April 26, 2009, Tucson Region.
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
Congressional Research Service 11
to drug smuggling and trafficking, these illegal activities are not necessarily directly related to
drug trafficking in general or to Mexican drug trafficking organizations in particular.
Relationship Between Illicit Drug Markets and
Violence
In an illegal marketplace, where prices and profits are elevated due to the risks of operating
outside the law, violence or the threat of violence becomes the primary means for settling disputes
and maintaining a semblance of order—however chaotic that “order” might appear to the outside
observer. This was a fundamental conclusion reached by the National Academy of Sciences Panel
on the Understanding and Control of Violent Behavior.46 Because illegal drug markets operate
outside the law, no courts or other forms of peaceful mediation47 exist for resolving disputes
between drug producers, traffickers, and their customers. As with other black markets, drug
markets are necessarily governed by the threat of violence, which may lead to actual violence.
Illegal drugs and violence, then, are linked primarily through the operations of underground drug
markets.48
Drug trafficking-related violence in Mexico has been on the rise; in 2008, there were more than
5,100 drug trafficking-related murders in Mexico—a 126% increase over 2007.49 Mexican drug
trafficking organizations are now at war with each other as well as with the police and military
personnel who are attempting to enforce the drug laws in northern Mexico along the U.S. border.
The drug trafficking organizations, as a result of enforcement actions in Mexico, along with
increasing border enforcement measures taken by the United States, are finding it more difficult
and more costly to control the production zones and smuggling routes. One of the consequences
of this increasingly competitive environment is a rise in the level of violence associated with the
illicit drug trade as the drug trafficking organizations struggle for control over territory, markets,
and smuggling routes. Policy makers are thus confronted with the uncomfortable possibility that
increased law enforcement (which leads to increased difficulty and costs to control production
zones and smuggling routes, and which in turn leads to the need to resolve disputes over such
territories) could result in increased drug trafficking-related violence. This appears to be the
situation that has recently developed in Mexico.
This relationship gives rise to a number of important issues for policy makers. One such matter is
evaluating the relative costs and benefits of increased enforcement of the current drug policy
against the potentially elevated levels of violence that such increased enforcement might
engender.50 Could the drug trafficking-related violence currently evidenced in Mexico reach a
46 Jeffrey A. Roth, “Psychoactive Substances and Violence,” National Institute of Justice (Research in Brief Series),
February 1994 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice).
47 Negotiated settlements do occur, although they often feature intimidation.
48 See for example, Peter Andreas and Joel Wallman, “Illicit market and violence: what is the relationship?,” Crime,
Law, and Social Change, vol. 52, no. 3 (September 2009), pp. 225-230, and Peter Reuter, “Systemic violence in drug
markets,” Crime, Law and Social Change, vol. 52, no. 3 (September 2009), pp. 275-285.
49 For more information on this violence in Mexico, see CRS Report R40582, Mexico’s Drug-Related Violence , by
June S. Beittel.
50 A Mexican study of the cost-effectiveness of using the military in the drug war (in Ciudad Juarez) has found that
there is a high cost with little success, as murders, kidnappings, extortions, and other crimes continue to increase. See
http://narcosphere.narconews.com/noteboo...s-drug-war.
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
Congressional Research Service 12
level that would prompt U.S. policy makers to consider policy actions that could alter the
underpinnings of the illegal drug market? It does not appear as if the violence has reached such a
level as yet. Policy makers, however, have expressed significant concern over the possibility of
the current violence in Mexico spilling over into the United States.
What Is Spillover Violence?
When assessing the potential implications of increased violence in Mexico as a result of the
increasing tensions between the drug trafficking organizations located in Mexico, one of the
central concerns for U.S. policy makers is the potential for what has recently been termed
“spillover” violence—an increase in drug trafficking-related violence in United States. Given this
concern, it is critical to develop an understanding of what “spillover” is, what it might look like,
how it might be measured, and what potential triggers for policy action can be identified from this
analysis.
To date, Congress has not adopted a formal definition of spillover violence. Several definitions
and/or qualities of spillover violence have been provided by government officials, as well as
experts and analysts. For instance, according to the DEA, the interagency community has defined
spillover violence in the following manner:
[S]pillover violence entails deliberate, planned attacks by the cartels on U.S. assets,
including civilian, military, or law enforcement officials, innocent U.S. citizens, or physical
institutions such as government buildings, consulates, or businesses. This definition does not
include trafficker on trafficker violence, whether perpetrated in Mexico or the U.S.51
This definition of spillover provides a relatively narrow scope of what may constitute spillover
violence. In particular, it excludes the category of violence—trafficker-on-trafficker violence—in
which the vast majority of drug trafficking-related violence in Mexico has occurred. If policy
makers and law enforcement are concerned that the drug trafficking-related violence, as seen in
Mexico, may spill over into the United States, they are necessarily concerned with this
predominant category of trafficker-on-trafficker violence that is excluded from the interagency
community’s definition of spillover violence. The boundaries of what may constitute spillover
violence, as defined by the interagency community, thus makes the likelihood that the United
States will experience this form of spillover violence relatively small. Further, by generally
constraining the definition of spillover violence to those acts that target the government and
innocent civilians, the type of violence necessary to constitute spillover (according to the
interagency definition) may begin to resemble acts of terrorism.52 If so, policy makers and experts
may be challenged with discriminating between spillover violence and terrorism.
51 Drug Enforcement Administration, Statement of Joseph M. Arabit Special Agent in Charge, El Paso Division,
Regarding “Violence Along the Southwest Border” Before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on
Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, March 24, 2009, http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/speeches/s032409.pdf.
52 18 U.S.C. § 2331 defines terrorism as “activities that (A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are
a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed
within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended—(i) to intimidate or coerce a
civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the
conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and © occur primarily outside the
territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are
accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate
(continued...)
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
Congressional Research Service 13
Several experts and scholars have also discussed qualities of drug trafficking-related violence that
may constitute spillover, including aspects of trafficker-on-trafficker violence. Such qualities are
analyzed in the following section and may provide policy makers with additional definitions of
spillover violence. Of note, this report does not address non-violent indicators—such as rising
corruption of U.S. officials and law enforcement—that could be related to drug trafficking-related
violence spillover.
Characteristics of Spillover Violence
Some experts have suggested that a spillover of violence into the United States may look similar
to the recent surge of violence in Mexico. In Mexico, this increasing violence has been seen
through a rise in both the number of drug trafficking-related murders and the brutality of the
murders. It is also taking the forms of increasing intimidation and fear, attacks on security forces,
assassinations of high-ranking officials, growing arsenals of weapons, and indiscriminate killing
of civilians.53
While a potential spillover of violence into the United States could appear similar to the violence
in Mexico, the violence may be contingent upon numerous factors that differ between the United
States and Mexico. For instance, the U.S. government may respond differently to domestic drug
trafficking-related violence than the Mexican government has, and these differences in responses
could in turn influence the nature of the drug trafficking-related violence seen in each country.
This section of the report discusses several factors that may be of concern as Congress debates the
potential spillover of drug trafficking-related violence. These factors include who may be
implicated in the violence, what type of violence may arise, when violence may appear, and
where violence may occur.
Who May Be Implicated in Violence
If the drug trafficking-related violence were to spill over from Mexico into the United States,
Congress may be concerned with both the individuals perpetrating the violence as well as the
victims of the violence.
Perpetrators
Reports on the drug trafficking-related violence in Mexico generally indicate that the perpetrators
of violence are active members of drug trafficking organizations who are vying for territory,
avenging betrayals, and reacting against the Mexican government’s crackdown on the
traffickers.54 If violence were to spill into the United States, policy makers may question whether
the perpetrators of the violence will continue to be active drug trafficking members from Mexico,
or whether violence will be inflicted by others who may be more indirectly tied to the drug
trafficking organizations. As mentioned, the drug trafficking organizations have connections with
(...continued)
or seek asylum.”
53 Stratfor Global Intelligence, Mexican Drug Cartels: Government Progress and Growing Violence, December 11,
2008, pp. 15-16, http://web.stratfor.com/images/MEXICAN%2...202008.pdf.
54 CRS Report R40582, Mexico’s Drug-Related Violence , by June S. Beittel.
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
Congressional Research Service 14
U.S. groups such as street gangs, prison gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs who distribute and
sell drugs, aid in smuggling drugs, and enforce the collection of drug proceeds.55 To date, reports
from law enforcement on drug trafficking-related violence in the United States are mixed; while
some suggest that violence may be carried out by drug traffickers or other criminals from
Mexico,56 others indicate that domestic drug traffickers or gang members may be responsible.57
Victims
The violence plaguing Mexico has been directed toward several groups: competing drug
trafficking organizations vying for territory, Mexican security forces, government officials, and
those indebted to the traffickers. In fact, Mexican government officials have estimated that 90%
of the murders in Mexico have targeted members of drug trafficking organizations.58 Although
there have been reports of civilian bystanders being killed and isolated events of indiscriminate
killing, there are not consistent reports of the drug traffickers targeting civilians who are
unconnected to the drug trade.59 If there were to be a significant spillover of violence into the
United States, policy makers may question whether the victims would be of a similar group as the
victims of violence in Mexico. To date, the anecdotal reports of drug trafficking-related violence
in the United States indicate that not only the perpetrators, but the victims of the crimes as well,
are all somehow involved in the drug trade.60 If any significant spillover of drug traffickingrelated
crime were to follow a similar pattern, policy makers could expect that individuals on both
sides of the violence are connected to the drug trade.
There are circumstances, however, under which the drug trafficking victims in the United States
could extend to groups beyond those involved in trafficking. If there is an increase in violence
and the U.S. government cracks down on the drug trafficking organizations similarly to the
Mexican government, the traffickers’ reactions in the United States may be similar to that seen in
Mexico—a surge in violence against security forces and government officials. Federal officials
have indicated that increased targeting of U.S. law enforcement personnel, similar to that which
has occurred in Mexico, would constitute evidence of spillover.61 If, however, the U.S. response
differs from that of Mexico, the reactions from the drug trafficking organizations may also differ.
Further, a change in the victim pattern—to include innocent bystanders, for instance—may
represent a departure from current patterns of drug trafficking-related violence and thus could
represent a reasonable trigger for policy action to mitigate the effects of spillover violence.
55 NDTA, 2009., pp. 43-46.
56 See, for example, Randal C. Archibold, “Mexican Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over, Alarming U.S.,” The New York
Times, March 22, 2009.
57 Brady McCombs and Tim Steller, “Drug Violence Spillover More Hype Than Reality: Southern Arizona lawmen
discount threat of cartel warfare crossing border,” Arizona Daily Star, April 26, 2009, Tucson Region.
58 See testimony by David Shirk, Director, Trans-Border Institute, University of San Diego, before the U.S. Congress,
House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Federal
Law Enforcement Response to US-Mexico Border Violence, 111th Cong., 1st sess., March 24, 2009.
59 CRS Report R40582, Mexico’s Drug-Related Violence , by June S. Beittel. See also Stratfor Global Intelligence,
Mexican Drug Cartels: Government Progress and Growing Violence, December 11, 2008, http://web.stratfor.com/
images/MEXICAN%20Cartels%202008.pdf.
60 See, for example, Randal C. Archibold, “Mexican Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over, Alarming U.S.,” The New York
Times, March 22, 2009.
61 Arthur H. Rotstein, “Bersin: Mexican Drug Violence Threat Major Concern,” The Associated Press, July 15, 2009,
quoting Alan Bersin the Department of Homeland Security Special Representative of Border Affairs. Further, this type
of violence would be consistent with the interagency definition of spillover violence.
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
Congressional Research Service 15
What Type of Violence May Arise
In Mexico, the drug trafficking-related violence most often reported is murder—over 14,000 drug
trafficking-related deaths since January 2007.62 There have also been reports of kidnappings,
home invasions, and assaults, among other crimes. In the United States, many of the anecdotal
reports citing an increase in violence point to an increase in drug trafficking-related kidnappings
and home invasions. For instance, over the past two years, there have been reports of about 700
recorded kidnappings in Phoenix, AZ, that are related to drug and human smuggling.63 It is
unknown how many of these kidnappings, if any, also have ties to drug smuggling;64 as
mentioned, drug trafficking organizations may supplement their incomes with crimes other than
drug trafficking if it is profitable. It is also unknown whether or not different types of violence are
more associated with certain crimes (committed by drug traffickers) than with others. If there
were to be a substantial spillover of drug trafficking-related violence from Mexico, policy makers
and law enforcement may be concerned with what types of violence may appear. Would the types
of drug trafficking-related violence already seen in the United States to date (i.e., kidnappings and
home invasions) become more prevalent, or would there be a greater emergence of the types of
violence seen in Mexico (i.e., murders)?
In addition to the type of violence, a spillover or increase in violence could also be measured by
the nature of the violence. As mentioned, the rise in the number of murders in Mexico was also
accompanied by increasing brutality, intimidation, and attacks on individuals other than those
directly involved in the illicit drug trade (i.e., security forces and governmental officials).65 If any
spillover of violence into the United States followed a similar pattern as the violence in Mexico,
there may be an increase in the brutality of crimes in addition to an increase in the pure number of
crimes.
When Violence May Appear
Critical to the assessment of whether the United States is experiencing spillover violence is the
establishment of a realistic timeline for measuring the change in drug trafficking-related violence
in the United States. If the policy goal is to determine if any spillover violence is occurring in the
United States as a result of the increasing violence in Mexico, then it would be logical to look at
trends in drug trafficking-related crime in the United States since the onset of the conditions that
precipitated the recent violence in Mexico—roughly beginning around when Mexican President
62 Figures are drawn from the Trans-Border Institute (TBI), “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis from 2001-
2009,” January 2010, citing data gathered by Reforma newspaper. For a description as to why Reforma data are used
instead of other sources, see p. 2-3 of the TBI report, available at http://www.justiceinmexico.org/resources/pdf/
drug_violence.pdf. There have been varying reports as to the actual number of drug related deaths. For instance, the
Washington Post also tracks this number, and that data is available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/
graphic/2009/04/01/GR2009040103531.html.
63 Randal C. Archibold, “Mexican Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over, Alarming U.S.,” The New York Times, March 22,
2009. The media has also reported 17 drug-related deaths in El Paso in 2008. See Sara Miller Llana, “Crossfire Towns:
Eye-To-Eye Across the US-Mexican Border, Two Communities Confront Drugs, Guns, and Misconceptions,” The
Christian Science Monitor, June 21, 2009.
64 Drug Enforcement Administration, Statement of Joseph M. Arabit Special Agent in Charge, El Paso Division,
Regarding “Violence Along the Southwest Border” Before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on
Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, March 24, 2009, http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/speeches/s032409.pdf.
65 Stratfor Global Intelligence, Mexican Drug Cartels: Government Progress and Growing Violence, December 11,
2008, pp. 15-16, http://web.stratfor.com/images/MEXICAN%2...202008.pdf.
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
Congressional Research Service 16
Felipe Calderon took office in December, 2006.66 A comparison of the trends in drug-trafficking
related violence (in the United States) before and after this reference point might shed some light
on whether or not the United States is experiencing spillover violence.
As noted, the United States has experienced and continues to experience certain levels of drug
trafficking-related crime. It may be difficult to isolate those drug trafficking-related violent
crimes that are occurring either directly or indirectly as a result of the situation in Mexico.
Therefore, it may also be useful for policy makers to use this same timeframe to measure changes
in other spillover indicators, such as changes in the profile of victims of drug trafficking-related
crime, the number and nature of violent attacks on U.S. law enforcement personnel, and changes
in the nature of drug trafficking-related violence. This could be one means to standardize the
measurement of any potential spillover and to provide policy makers with a more concrete idea of
the trends. The discussion of when the violence occurs begs the question of where to measure any
potential change in violence.
Where Violence May Occur
As may be expected, the majority of the discussion surrounding the prospects of spillover
violence in the United States has been focused on the Southwest border (SWB). Initially, this
makes intuitive sense. Even the very term “spillover” suggests the spread of violence across the
border from Mexico—almost by osmosis. From a policy perspective, it is useful to question
whether or not a focus exclusively on the border makes sense. Certainly this is where the analysis
should begin as the SWB region is the primary region that links production and smuggling
operations within Mexico to the United States. As noted, however, the drug trafficking
organizations’ operations within the United States are geographically dispersed throughout at
least 230 cities. Drug trafficking organizations are businesses, and they not only maintain their
own presence in the United States but also have relationships with U.S. groups such as street
gangs, prison gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs to facilitate the distribution and sale of drugs
within the United States.
Given that drug trafficking-related violence is prevalent throughout the United States, the task for
policy makers is to concentrate the geographic analysis of changes in drug trafficking-related
violence around areas that would have the greatest likelihood of eliciting evidence of spillover.
One possible method of accomplishing this task could be to look at the various factors discussed
above—changes in the levels, nature, and victim pattern of drug trafficking-related violence in
selected geographic locations—along a timeline that corresponds with the escalation of drug
trafficking violence in Mexico. Of course, the critical issue is selecting those geographic
locations. Areas already identified as strategically important to drug trafficking operations here in
the United States would be an optimal place to start. These locations would include cities, states,
and localities in the SWB region, as well as along significant inland distribution routes. Policy
makers may also wish to examine geographic areas that are not currently identified as
strategically important to drug trafficking operations here in the United States, as a control for
comparison.
66 See CRS Report R40582, Mexico’s Drug-Related Violence , by June S. Beittel.
Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence
Congressional Research Service 17
Challenges in Evaluating and Responding to
Spillover Violence
This section of the report discusses some of the challenges facing policy makers when
considering policy options dealing with drug control and border security issues in general. These
issues are discussed more generally because they provide the context within which any specific
options for dealing with the potential spillover of drug trafficking-related violence will be
determined. These policy challenges include the complexity of the issue, defining goals and
objectives, and measuring the problem.
Complexity of the Issue
As evidenced through some of the above discussion, there are many federal agencies, state and
local entities, task forces, intelligence centers, and various other groups that are not only involved
in drug control policy in general, but have specific roles in countering threats posed by the
Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Each of these agencies has different authorities, budgets,
resources, and responsibilities when it comes to the drug control issue (the Appendix to this
report details the recent drug control efforts of these agencies). This complexity has also been
evident in the federal government’s current response to the increasing drug trafficking-related
violence in Mexico. The policy implication of this intricate web of jurisdictions is that it is
difficult to centralize the establishment, implementation, and evaluation of policies—be they drug
control policies in general, or the specific policy responses to the increased drug traffickingrelated
violence.
Several congressional hearings have been held on various aspects of the drug control and drug
trafficking-related violence i...
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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