JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The number of murders in Juarez fell substantially in 2022, a fact local police officials attribute to more interagency coordination and increased use of technology – such as security cameras – to discourage street crime.

The city reported 1,045 violent homicides as of Thursday, compared to 1,420 in all last year – a 26 percent reduction.

“Coordination between the three levels of government is very important,” Juarez Municipal Police Chief Cesar Omar Munoz said. “We are working together and have more police presence in the city. That and the technology and equipment we have received have contributed to the work we have done this year.”

While other Mexican border cities like Tijuana report an increase in murders with more than 2,000 so far this year, Mexico is seeing an overall decrease of 10.3 percent. Still, the number of violent homicides in this fourth year of the Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador administration remains three times as high compared to the fourth year of Vicente Fox’s (2004), 20 percent higher than the fourth year of Felipe Calderon’s mandate (2010) and 25 percent higher than the fourth year of Enrique Pena Nieto’s term (2016).

Homicide comparison graphic courtesy Government of Mexico

“The first few years were difficult … but we stopped the upward spiral,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said at a news conference on Thursday. “Yes, true. Those (2018-2019) were the highest indicators. It took us time because, like I said, of the dynamic of increased violence. But here (2020), it starts going down and we propose to reduce it further.”

Mexico as of Thursday reported 31,127 violent homicides in 2022, or 86 per day. That compares to 95 per day in 2019 and 94 per day in 2020. Mexican officials and international security experts attribute many of the murders not to street crime but to drug cartel activity.

Firms like Virginia-based Global Guardian say the drug cartels are present in every state in Mexico and at war with each other all along the northern border and in hotspots in the west and south. Violence often breaks out over control of smuggling routes to the U.S., drug growing areas, extortion rackets, gasoline theft, personal disputes among gang leaders and in retaliation for police arresting drug lords.

That was the case last August, when a prison riot in Juarez spilled onto the streets and left 10 people dead and several businesses and private vehicles on fire. That same week, cartels went on a violent spree in Guadalajara, Guanajuato and Tijuana.

Cartel turf war map courtesy Global Guardian

“If you have operations in Mexico, you can really be caught in the crossfire almost at any time, at any place,” said Michael Ballard, director of intelligence for Global Guardian. “There was a span of three to four days there was a ton of violence. Several dozen people were killed. You had all these convenience stores torched, set on fire, tractor trailers, buses trucks highjacked and set up as blockaded. Shootouts between security forces and cartel street gangs.”

Security experts say Mexico is still a good place to do business with the proper precautions.

“We have this idea of armored vehicles, black Suburbans and a whole convoy of vehicles,” Ballard said in an interview with Border Report after the August violence. “We recommend keeping as low a profile as possible. You don’t want to draw attention; you don’t want to be flagged by cartel lookouts. You want to blend into traffic, keep your personal profile low. Don’t have your head stuck in your phone the whole time. Always maintain situational awareness.”

Ballard recommends traveling or being out in Mexico preferably during the daytime, not walking alone, having someone who knows the language (Spanish) with you, seeking information in advance of the cities or neighborhoods you will be in and, above all, identifying a safe place to go in a situation of danger.