For the last few years, the people of Juarez lived in a warlike collective trauma that reached its peak in January-February, 2011 when, on average, almost ten lives were taken per day in the belligerent streets of the battered border city.
In retrospect, the reality of a leading community the size of Juarez stroked simultaneously by the great economic recession and the security crisis seems implausible even for a movie script.
The toll has been high and widespread. A drought of new manufacturing projects, the emigration of talent, the closing of businesses, the constant mantra claiming for peace and the shroud of fear, all tested the resilience of Juarez. The only consolation is thinking that it could have been a lot worse.
And yes, it is important to mention "The elephant in the room" because the violence was real and because if we don't remember the past we might be condemned to repeat it.
Fortunately, the elephant is on its way out of the room. The "Murder capital of the world"- no more.
According to data from the trustworthy source Ciudad Juarez "Mesa de Seguridad" (Security council), a group that includes the three levels of government (Federal, State, City) and private citizens (persons without public or government positions) from the local academic, business and social institutions, the incidence of crime and homicides in Juarez has declined significantly.
The graph in the Exhibit shows the number of homicides in Juarez per 100,000 inhabitants for the last three years. Note that since the peak in early 2011 when murders/100k were at a mindboggling 240, they have had a constant decline. The lowest figure of 24/100k was recorded in November 2012, an arithmetical drop of 900%...!
The 12-month average of homicides/100k for 2012 was 57, and the last 6-month's average was 31. Statistically, the data series for the three years in record can be regarded as a significant trend.
But other important indicators are also receding as explained in The Mesa de Seguridad's report which may be found at www.mesadeseguridad.org
For example, auto thefts with violence have gone from over 500 per month in the first quarter of 2011 to about 65 per month in Q4-2012, presenting a much safer panorama in the streets. For the general public, businesspersons and tourists driving, this is probably the most important security indicator of all.
The report also shows large and important drops in auto theft without violence, convenience stores assaults, kidnappings and extortions.
Where do we want to be to be able to say that Ciudad Juarez is safe? According to the Mesa de Seguridad objectives for 2013, the target for homicides/100k per month is 15, kidnappings and extortions should be at zero. The report doesn't show an objective for auto theft with violence, but reaching a level of 30 or under per month seems reasonable.
Now, border regions and ports everywhere in the world are by nature less safe than most interior cities, so it is hard for Juarez to aspire to be level with the likes of Seville, Arkansas or Costa Rica. But as shown in the graph, Juarez is becoming a lot safer, and if measured by the homicides/100k yardstick, it is safer than other cities in the U.S. and abroad.
But by that token, any city is dangerous if you are with the wrong company, at the wrong place and time. The most important things for the inhabitants of a city and visitors to remain safe are to be careful, avoid risk and keep your eyes and ears open.
The task in Juarez for now is to finish getting rid of the elephant and making sure that it doesn't come back.