LIANE HANSEN, host:
There's no official count of those killed in Mexico's drug war. The best substitute is Molly Malloy's database. She is on a personal mission to keep an accurate tally of the victims. Molly Malloy is a librarian at New Mexico State University and she joins us from the studios of KRWG in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Welcome to the program, Molly.
Ms. MOLLY MALLOY (Librarian, New Mexico State University): Thank you.
HANSEN: The Mexican government offers estimates of drug-related murders but no official number. Do you think the government is intentionally withholding information?
Ms. MALLOY: It depends what you mean by withholding. The newspapers do get reports from the state attorney general's offices in Juarez and in other places where there's a lot of murders. And most of the newspapers report those very faithfully and some newspapers also try to keep their own tallies. And the numbers reported from the attorney general's offices or the police and the newspaper reports, they almost never match up exactly.
And what I try to do is essentially get the best reports I can from local newspapers.
HANSEN: How did you get involved in this?
Ms. MALLOY: Well, I've been working on disseminating information about the U.S.-Mexico border since about, oh, 2000 or even earlier when I came to New Mexico State and was working here as a librarian. The border is one of my areas of specialty. And in 2008, it was evident that something really big had happened, that there was a big change in the amount of violence.
2007 previously was the year with the highest number of murders in Juarez history, and that was about 320. All of the sudden in 2008, the murders began to be 200 per month or more. And by the end of 2008, the number was 1,623. It increased by more than fives times. In 2009, the year ended with about 2,700 killings.
The reality of this level of violence is something that is absolutely unprecedented in Mexico, and certainly unprecedented in any other part of the world that I know of where there's not an actual civil war of some kind going on.
HANSEN: What happens with your findings? How is your database used?
Ms. MALLOY: Well, right now, to call it a database is sort of a pipe dream of mine. I mean, I wish it was a database. What it is, is a lot of articles saved in my email that I can search and find pretty much anything. And that, I think, is real important because the Mexican government continues to say that 90 percent of the people killed are criminals being killed by other criminals. That's an actual quote from President Calderon.
And I think if you look at the actual stories day-to-day and see the names of the people killed and their ages, it's almost impossible to believe that these are all criminals. Just this past week, two young girls, aged 14 and 15, were shot down. It's hard to imagine - I mean, it's not impossible that 14- and 15-year-old girls are doing something illegal but it's hard to imagine that they are actual cartel criminals, which is what the Mexican government tends to call these people.
HANSEN: Do you ever get concerned about your own safety?
Ms. MALLOY: No, not really. I mean, I do most of what I do either in my office or at home on my own computer. I do go to Juarez frequently and I have a lot of friends that are involved in social organizations, a lot of friends who are journalists and I worry a lot about those people because I know that they're not safe. But I honestly don't feel that I'm in danger.
HANSEN: Molly Malloy is a librarian at New Mexico State University, who is keeping a tally of those killed in the Mexican drug wars. She joined us from the studios of KRWG in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Thank you, Molly.
Ms. MALLOY: Thank you very much.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.