Get access

A Tale of Two Border Cities: Community Context, Ethnicity, and Homicide


  • *Direct correspondence to Ramiro Martinez, Jr., School of Criminal Justice, University Park, 11200 SW 8th St., Miami, FL 33199 〈〉. Professor Martinez will share all data and coding information with those wishing to replicate the study. This research was made possible through a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to the Latino Drug Abuse Research Center Violence Study (DA014260-04). Data coding was greatly enhanced by the National Consortium of Violence Research Summer program. This article was completed while the first author was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Houston, Center for Mexican American Studies. The authors thank the Bexar County Medical Examiner Office, City of San Antonio Police Department, and the City of San Diego Police Department for providing access to homicide files. They also thank the SSQ editor and reviewers for comments. Points of view, interpretation, errors, or omissions are, of course, their own.


Objective. Using Poisson-based negative binomial regression, we estimate the effect of neighborhood factors on homicides in two cities (San Antonio, Texas and San Diego, California) that have large Mexican-origin populations.

Methods. Three independent data sources (official homicide police reports, medical examiner records, and the U.S. Census) are used to construct the dependent homicide, and independent neighborhood, variables. Census tracts represent the unit of analysis, which serve as a proxy for neighborhoods. Given the spatial nature of the data, spatial estimation procedures were also modeled.

Results. Spatial proximity to violence, neighborhood disadvantage, and affluence (in San Antonio) consistently buffered homicide across neighborhoods, even in heavily populated Latino neighborhoods.

Conclusions. Spatial embeddedness and neighborhood characteristics are important for improving our understanding about ethnic neighborhood variations in levels of violence. Comparative approaches across places, namely, Latino-dominated cities, can yield considerable insight into how the local context intersects race/ethnicity and violent crime.