CREATED Dec 26, 2012 - UPDATED: Dec 27, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
Web Producer: Mekita Rivas
TUBAC, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Border Patrol moved in and neighbors have complained ever since. Now, researchers say they’ve found new evidence backing up one particular concern of people living around the Interstate 19 checkpoint near Tubac.
The complaint: that their property has lost value because of the federal agency’s presence.
Mindy Maddock knows Tubac real estate and is quick to share a story about a client.
“We looked for properties and she had settled on a house that she thought was really nice, but she said, 'How long is the checkpoint going to be here?'” the associate broker at Brasher Real Estate said. “I said, 'Well, at this point, it's semi-permanent.' She said, 'Well, I don't want to buy here. I don't want to have to go through a checkpoint every day.' She went and bought elsewhere.”
Maddock, also president of the Tubac Chamber of Commerce, wishes the Border Patrol interstate checkpoint -- 25 miles north of the Mexican border outside Tubac since 2010 -- was not where it is. Maddock pointed out she supports law enforcement officials and their efforts, but she’s convinced the station itself is the reason home prices haven't recovered here like in other parts of the state.
“I sold a home in Rio Rico. The price was $138,000,” she explained. “That house could have sold without this problem for a good $158,000.”
“There is a perception if you have to go through a checkpoint, what’s behind you is not safe,” Maddock said. “There’s also a perception that there’s a higher crime rate, which ties into ‘You’re not safe.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Now there is research to support part of these long-standing claims.
University of Arizona researcher Judy Gans compared residential real estate prices in Tubac and nearby Rio Rico -- which are south of the checkpoint, toward the Mexican border -- with prices in Green Valley, which is north of the checkpoint.
“It used to be that, over time, Tubac and Rio Rico prices moved in lockstep with Green Valley prices,” said the manager of the Immigration Policy Program at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy. “What our analysis has really shown is that the checkpoint has changed that.”
Changed for the worse, according to the case study. Part of the 20-page report reads, “The analysis estimates that, all other things being equal, real estate prices in Tubac-Rio Rico declined by an average of $2769 per three-month period relative to those in Green Valley between the time that the checkpoint opened in its current location (April 2010) and when this analysis was conducted (July 2012).”
“The single biggest factor explaining the difference between Tubac prices and Rio Rico on one side and Green Valley on the other was the checkpoint,” Gans said, explaining the statistical analysis detailed in the report.
Maddock was not at all surprised by the findings.
KGUN9 News reporter Kevin Keen asked Gans if the analysis definitely pinpointed the checkpoint as the cause of the property value decline.
“No statistical analysis proves that one thing causes another, but what it does say is, ‘Yeah, there is statistical evidence that kind of supports the claims the community’s making,’” Gans answered.
The Department of Homeland Security paid for the study, which Gans explained is part of a larger project looking at the impact of checkpoints in general. The department did not return KGUN9’s request for an explanation of what it planned to do with the findings.
Maddock said she hopes lawmakers will read the study and recognize the negative effects checkpoints have on nearby communities, forcing them to reconsider where and why they’re located.
KGUN9 asked Border Patrol for comment. The agency sent this one-line statement: “The U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on I-19 south of Tucson is a valuable tool in Customs and Border Protection’s mission to improve the safety of border communities and the nation as a whole.”