[From slideshow: a view of U.S.-Mexico border fence]
The picture painted of America's southwestern border with Mexico is a bloody one, in which the drug violence decimating northern Mexico has spilled onto U.S. soil and turned the region into a war zone.
But a new and well done USA Today data analysis published this morning found violent crime rates along the U.S.-Mexico border have been falling for years -- even before the U.S. security buildup that has included thousands of law enforcement officers and expansion of a massive fence along the border.
The paper's analysis drew on more than a decade of detailed crime data reported by more than 1,600 local law enforcement agencies in four states, federal crime statistics and interviews along the border from California to Texas.
Stories like this one, based on reams of data, risk being overrun by dry numbers, when reporters and editors try to make the most of all the information they've unearthed. But today's account does an excellent job of weaving just enough statistics through the text to give the report credibility, without losing readers' interest.
Today's package includes an interactive map that compares crime rates near the border with state crime rates. There's also a gallery of photos by H. Darr Beiser, showing life along the border. Plus, a video.
Earlier: In another recommended story, USAT reveals housing carnage on Helens Pouroff Ave.
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[Image: today's front page, Newseum]