Cuernavaca has overtaken Acapulco as Mexico's most dangerous city, according to an annual report from a Mexican NGO, indication that while homicide rates overall are trending downwards in Mexico, certain areas remain beset by crime.
The report, by the Mexican Citizens' Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice (CCSP-JP for its Spanish acronym), showed that Cuernavaca's violence rate is three times higher than the national average. In addition to homicide figures, the CCSP-JP looked at kidnapping, rape, assault, armed robbery, and extortion statistics from 2014.
Acapulco, which topped the NGO's list in 2012 and 2013, remained the city with Mexico's highest homicide rate, but had lower crime rates in other categories.
As described in a previous report by the CCSP-JP, while the majority of the world's most violent cities are concentrated in Latin America, last year just two Mexican cities were among the top 25 most violent, down from nine in 2011.
InSight Crime Analysis
While President Enrique Peña Nieto's administration has touted lower homicide rates as evidence of the success of its security policies, studies that take different types of crimes into account tell a different story. If it were judged by its homicide rate alone, Acapulco would be Mexico's most dangerous city and Cuernavaca wouldn't even rank in the top 10, even though it has higher rates of kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, and extortion.
There's also the question of whether the CCSP-JP's ranking could actually be underreporting the amount of crime in these select cities. The CCSP-JP used statistics from Mexico’s National System of Public Security and state attorney general offices, and authors of the report noted that these numbers are lower than those seen in crime victimization surveys. Another local Mexican NGO recently questioned the government's statistics on kidnapping, releasing numbers that show kidnappings are actually on the rise.
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As Mexico's big drug cartels weaken and are replaced by smaller, more local criminal groups, these often depend on kidnapping and extortion to bring in revenue, instead of transnational drug trafficking. In one notable example, after the Beltran Leyva Organization split into several smaller groups, turf wars between gangs have erupted in the states of Morelos and Guerrero, where Cuernavaca and Acapulco, the two most violent cities on the list, are located. In Acapulco municipality, for instance, three criminal groups (Los Rojos, the Independent Cartel of Acapulco, and La Barredora) vie for control of the extortion, kidnapping, and poppy production trade, the plant used to make heroin, according to El Universal.