HomeNewsAnalysisOp-ed: The Challenges of Studying Mexico’s Progress Towards Peace
ANALYSIS

Op-ed: The Challenges of Studying Mexico’s Progress Towards Peace

HOMICIDES / 7 APR 2016 BY STEVE KILLELEA* EN

For those of us preoccupied with the study of crime in Mexico, there is one great frustration. That official statistics are often unreliable and sometimes by design.

It presents a monumental challenge, especially when we are accumulating the data for the 2016 Mexico Peace Index, released today, which provides a comprehensive measure of levels of violence in the country from 2003 to 2015. So how do we know when official statistics are wrong?

At the Institute for Economics and Peace we took the homicide numbers as recorded by the police and compared them to the numbers of death certificates certified by medical professionals that list murder as the cause of death. In doing so, we found that homicide victims have been undercounted by law enforcement agencies by more than 20 percent in 11 Mexican states. They are troubling figures.

This is an op-ed by Steve Killelea, chairman and founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace, which publishes the Mexico Peace Index. It does but not necessarily reflect the views of InSight Crime. See our take on the index here

In 2014, every Mexican state had at least a small discrepancy between police and medical data sources. Some amount of difference is to be expected, as some of the cases investigated by police may have been found to not be homicides upon review by a coroner, but the sizes of some of the gaps raise concerns about the veracity of data provided by law enforcement agencies. In the state of Veracruz, for example, only 63.9 percent of the homicide victims recorded in death certificates in 2014 were the subject of police homicide investigations.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Homicides

In addition, during our research we found that only around 10 percent of extortions, 17 percent of rapes and 32 percent of kidnappings are reported to authorities.

Disappearances are a problem in Mexico as well, with accounts of the discoveries of mass graves, such as those in Guerrero, and loved ones searching for their missing. The official numbers say that more than 26,000 people are known to have gone missing in Mexico since 2007, which is incomplete. That figure only represents the people who are currently missing, it does not represent the total number of all the people who have gone missing in that time given that some have reappeared or been found dead.

In our in-depth analysis on disappearances in Mexico, we can see that the majority of the people reported and currently missing are male youths, and are often working class men with families. Their disappearances, while tragic in themselves, can have a serious impact on the financial circumstances of extended families.

Corruption is an issue in Mexico and its manifestations and extent vary from state to state, leading in some cases to underreporting of data. There has been a problematic relationship between organized crime, some government operations and law enforcement in Mexico since at least the 1990s, leading to its place at the lowest ranking on the Corruption Perceptions Index of any OECD country. This raises concerns that law enforcement agencies may not be investigating all cases or that official agencies could be deliberately underreporting the level of crime within jurisdictions in order to appear more efficient and lawful.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Meanwhile, 60 percent of victims, when surveyed and asked why they didn’t report a crime to the authorities, said it was due to the performance of government agencies.

Changes are underway, however. Mexico is investing in police, judicial and penal system reforms, including the New Criminal Justice System (NSJP), the implementation deadline for which is in June 2016. This will allow defendants to challenge prosecution evidence more effectively, and should reduce trial times, sometimes by years. It will also establish the presumption of innocence to accused parties, guarantee their right to a licensed public defender, and prohibit torture, intimidation and incommunicado detention. As of March 2014, the public security secretariat has also been required by law to publish victim counts for the investigations into homicide, kidnapping and extortion, a requirement that represents an advancement in efforts towards transparency.

In the meantime, how do we compensate for the poor quality of the official figures? IEP’s analysis takes into account a number of sources, public surveys and the wisdom of an expert panel, and adjusts government data to account for underreporting.

It’s with this depth of scrutiny that the latest edition presents a cautiously optimistic picture for the future of peace in Mexico, although efforts need to be made to strengthen the capacity of government agencies, including in their recording of crime statistics. Accurate data is important. Because with it can come an understanding of the scale of problems, the policies that work, the trends, patterns and drivers of peace. All of which can allow a society to gain the wisdom needed to implement a long-lasting and meaningful peace.

*Steve Killelea is the chairman and founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace, which publishes the Mexico Peace Index.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL MAYO / 24 JUL 2014

The upcoming trial in California of a high-ranking operative from Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel raises questions about the state of…

HEROIN / 4 JAN 2011

A noted Mexican crime analyst and scholar says that the Sinaloa Cartel is buying heroin and precursor chemicals in Afghanistan,…

MEXICO / 26 MAY 2011

Seventeen inmates in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas tunneled out of a prison in Reynosa, offering another…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…