The effect of the NAFTA in crime
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This study is focused on crime as it is relates to the economic trade policy, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The NAFTA was enacted in 1994 to stimulate trade in North America between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The NAFTA aimed to lower tariffs and boost economic development, which would create jobs and opportunities for improved education, standards of living, and opportunities for social improvement within the region. This study examines NAFTA and crime rates to determine whether this enactment served as a trigger for crime. Crime statistics relevant to issues of NAFTA that occur along the southern United States and northern Mexico border area include drug, financial, immigration, smuggling, and violent crimes. This broad field was narrowed and specific crimes examined in this study include financial and drug crimes with a focus on white-collar crime, specifically money laundering. Strain theory (Merton, 1938; 1957) was used to explain crime that has resulted from NAFTA. Strain theory suggests that as societal strain increases, crime also increases. Robert Merton argued that societal strain affects individuals and behaviors within a culture by differential access to social structure or the means to achieve the cultural expectations and goals. Sociological factors are highlighted using this theory for social and geographical settings as detailed by the NAFTA trade routes commonly used by drug cartels as well as legitimate businesses. Data were gathered from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Report (UCR), Department of Justice (DOJ) Crime Statistics, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Drug Seizure Statistics. These agencies provided secondary quantitative data to explain the financial crime trends and determine whether the NAFTA triggered increased crime along the U.S. and Mexican borders, which has yielded illegal profits in the billions of dollars and rising levels of violence. The foreseen limitations of this study are that the data utilized is secondary data from the FBI UCR. The data is limited by the amount of specific information which is entered into this set. However, additional data obtained from secondary sources in this study together with the FBI UCR suggests a cause and effect relationship between the NAFTA and crime. The FBI data set is a measure of percentage distribution of crime controlled by population where one unit of measure represents 100,000 per population in the United States. The goal of this study is to shed light on crime as it relates to the NAFTA and social strain, provide a discussion to affect policy considerations and improvements, and aid in the law enforcement and regulation necessary to control these crimes.