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Murder by the numbers: 1930 – 2010

4 June 2012

Dutch journalist (and resident of supposedly unsafe Nezahuacoatl, State of Mexixo) Jan-Albert Hootsen comments on this graph of the Mexican murder rate since 1930:

1. As much as the international media tend to state that Mexico is in chaos, with ´an unprecedented amount of bloodshed´, in comparison to the 1950´s and 1960´s the current murder rate is significantly lower.

2. True as the above may be, the murder rate has risen steeply since 2006, with the only years showing a comparable rise in homicides in recent memory being 1974 and 1984[1].

3. The orange line at the far right of the graph indicates the murder rate without executions related to organized crime, which shows us that the ´general´ murder rate has actually been relatively stable, and that the vast majority of murders since 2009 have been drug war/organized crime related.

If you take into account that the majority of victims of execution are members of organized crime groups, as well as taking into account that executions on a large scale are relatively localized, this graph suggests that for most Mexicans the risk of being murdered isn´t considerably higher than, say, 2005. Unless, of course, you´re in a crime group.

Still, that does not at all mean that the country is ´about as safe as, say, 2005´. Safety isn´t just about the risk of being murdered or not. It´s about stray bullets, extortion, kidnapping, et cetera. One thing that is clear, is that the perception of safety has gone completely down the drain over the last few years. And not just in the drug war hotspots.

My note on this:

[1]  The murder rate fell dramatically after the 1940s, as Mexico both demilitarized the government, and as the middle class increased and unions were strong.  The rate jumped in the mid-1970s and remained relatively high (between 15 and 20 murders per 100,000) until the late 1990s, as the PRI turned conservative.  This was an era of declining buying power, high inflation, and “privatization”.  The rates dropped dramatically  during the “democraticization” of the late 1990s and early 200s, but rose dramatically under the Calderón Administration.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 5 June 2012 8:57 am

    Curious how the murder rate fell despite poverty going up in the second half of the 1990´s. It contradicts the general perception that rising poverty and economic insecurity causes violent crime to rise. I´ve been looking for a graph on robberies, burglaries and such, but couldn´t find any comprehensive visualized data on the subject…

  2. 5 June 2012 12:53 pm

    Poverty in the last half of the 90s: NAFTA. Migration increasing? Rather than stay and suffer, how many left, once massively subsidized corn and other US agricultural products flooded the land, eliminating the ability of sustenance farmers to support their families?

  3. 5 June 2012 1:22 pm

    That does sound logical, but is it enough to let the murder rate drop that much? And wouldn´t many migrants fall victim to gangs and human trafficking?

  4. 6 June 2012 7:26 pm

    At least among my acquaintances, which is an admittedly extremely tiny sample, border crossings were relatively simple and straightforward, compared to today. The good economic times of the 1990s had not yet produced backlash against “illegal immigrants” that we’ve seen through the 2000s.

    Bush noticeably beefed up border enforcement (as has Obama) which gives more power to the gangs and traffickers, since their help is needed to circumvent or bribe the increased enforcement. In much the same way that Calderon’s crackdown on cartels has escalated, rather than decreased violence, the crackdown on border crossings strengthened traffickers.

    In most matters involving economic forces, law enforcement often isn’t the answer. (see: Prohibition) Addressing the demand, the draw, the market forces at work is often more effective and leads to fewer unintended consequences.

    A Rand Corporation study found:

    “The results show that treatment is overwhelmingly the most cost-effective way of reducing cocaine consumption and its resulting social costs. In brief, the RAND study shows that treatment is 7 times more cost effective than domestic law enforcement method, 10 times more effective than interdiction, and 23 times more effective than the “source control” method.”

    Yet, where does the money all go? Militarization, law enforcement, interdiction and source control. Each of which is a significant waste compared to treatment of the users.
    . . .

    Would the relocation of a few million Mexicans affect the crime rate that much?
    Hard to say. But it may be one of the factors involved. The implementation of NAFTA was a significant source of change in many ways.

  5. 6 June 2012 7:27 pm

    Ooops: and here’s the link to the Rand info: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/buyers/doitwork.html

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