SAN DIEGO -- Drug-related killings decreased along the U.S.-Mexico border last year, even as violence grew across Mexico.
In 2010, 50 percent of all drug-related killings in Mexico happened in northern border states. Last year, just 44 percent of killings did.
The decrease in border cities was even more dramatic. Their share of all drug-related killings fell from 30 percent to 17 percent.
The findings comes from a report to be released Friday by the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute, which analyzed Mexican government crime data.
David Shirk, the institute's director, said much of that reduction came from large cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, where at least two dynamics appear to have changed: Major cartels have secured control of smuggling routes from smaller ones, and pacts may have formed between cartels and government officials.
But while drops in large cities brought down murder levels along the border as a whole, violence did increase in some areas of the border, including in Coahuila and Tamaulipas states, the report found. It also spread into southern states like Veracruz.
Still, the data revealed the increase of violence appears to be slowing. Murders in Mexico rose by just 11 percent last year, compared to a 59 percent increase the year before.
The report called that leveling-off "a small cause for celebration."
But, Shirk said, “It’s far too early to break out the champagne or the tequila, but certainly it is the kind of shift that we would like to see: violence dropping much more sharply in the next couple of years.”
Among the other findings:
- While violence has increased and spread, it remains highly concentrated in key drug trafficking areas, with 70 percent of organized crime killing occurring in just eight states.
- Total drug-related killings surpassed 50,000 since the time President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006.
- Drug-related murders still account for more than half of all homicides in Mexico.
- Despite the increases of violence in Mexico, its overall homicide rate remains much lower than rates in other countries in Latin America, including Honduras, El Salvador and Venezuela.