Argentina's first official report on crime victimization in years represents an initial step toward enhancing transparency around security issues, but it is still too early to tell what is driving the trends outlined by the study.
Security Minister Patricia Bullrich presented on July 4 the primary results of the first official crime victimization survey released in Argentina in seven years.
The survey, carried out by Argentina's National Census and Statistics Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos - INDEC), shows some improvements in crime victimization rates in recent years.
An estimated 27.5 percent of Argentine households were victim to a criminal incident during 2016, with barely 32 percent of incidents being reported to authorities. But overall crime levels decreased by 6 percent in comparison to 2015, Bullrich asserted.
Homicides, for instance, dropped by 9 percent in 2016 compared to 2015. Bullrich said Argentina's 2016 homicide rate was 6 per 100,000, according to Clarín. This would rank Argentina as the third least-homicidal nation in Latin America last year.
Bullrich described the survey as "a starting point for decreasing crime," adding that "statistics are fundamental" to this goal.
InSight Crime Analasis
The victimization survey is the latest in a series of moves by the administration of President Mauricio Macri to provide greater public transparency concerning the country's security situation. (Another recent step was the June 29 release of nationwide drug consumption data for the first time since 2010.)
This renewed government attention toward compiling and analyzing quantitative data on crime is, however, quite recent. Argentina's previous presidential administration placed virtually no emphasis on obtaining -- much less publishing -- accurate official statistics, eventually leaving the INDEC in a dire state with its credibility shattered.
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This institutional legacy will not be disappear overnight. Strong conclusions concerning security trends will demand additional data collection and analysis over a longer period than just a few years. And indeed, the new study provides little indication of what is driving the observed decrease in crime victimization rates.
Argentina's recently-adopted security strategy, which combines a heavy-handed militarized approach along the borders on one hand with community policing and social programs for crime-ridden urban areas on the other, may deserve some of the credit. But security evolutions are also likely the result of a variety of changing socioeconomic factors and shifting criminal dynamics.
Further collection and analysis of quantitative data will be needed to clarify which factors contribute to crime, and how. But as InSight Crime investigations have previously shown, accurate record keeping and informational analysis is crucial for being able to understand the local security landscape and developing effective policies to address it.