The reticence of victims to report a crime in Mexico, documented in a recent survey, has shone a light on historical levels of mistrust in the country's institutions as security challenges pile up for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, nearly a year after taking office.
An estimated 24.7 million people above the age of 18 are believed to have been victims of crime across Mexico in 2018 while 78 percent of that age group felt at risk of falling victim to a crime. And in 93.2 percent of criminal cases, either the victim failed to report the crime or authorities failed to open an investigation.
According to the study, street robbery or muggings was the most common crime (28.5 percent) with extortion coming at number two (17.3 percent), followed by fraud (14.3 percent) and car theft (11.5 percent).
The figures for 2017 were slightly higher with an estimated 25.4 million victims of crime and nearly 78 percent of individuals feeling insecure. But the estimated level of failure to report crimes stayed the same.
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The results come from the National Survey of Victimization and Perception of Public Security (Encuesta Nacional de Victimización y Percepción de la Seguridad Pública – ENVIPE), carried out across more than 100,000 households between March and April 2019 by Mexico’s National Statistics Agency (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía – INEGI).
The study did not focus on violent crimes specifically committed at the hands of organized crime groups.
InSight Crime Analysis
High levels of crime and violence have been one of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (often referred to as AMLO) biggest challenges since taking office nearly a year ago in December 2018.
With some of the highest homicide rates in the country’s history recorded in 2018, Mexico is poised to register a new tragic rise in violence in 2019.
Although the most recent INEGI survey shows a slight improvement when compared to the previous year, the high underreporting rate should not come as a surprise.
According to the official study, 31.7 percent of crime victims said they did not report a crime because they thought it was a “waste of time” and 17.4 percent said they “did not trust the authorities.”
This is to be expected, particularly given Mexico’s long history of deep-seated corruption, official collusion with crime groups and systematic impunity.
Mexico was one of the worst-ranked countries in the 2017 Global Impunity Index (Índice Global de Impunidad – IGI) from the Center for Studies on Impunity and Justice (Centro de Estudios sobre Impunidad y Justicia – CESIJ) and the University of the Americas Puebla (Universidad de las Américas Puebla – UDLAP).
The report evaluates the effectiveness of the crime reporting and investigation process and how often it leads to justice for the perpetrator and/or the victim.
The factors taken into account include the functionality and capacity of the judicial system to act, the number of prosecutors, judges and police officers, and crime prevention strategies among others, all of which need work in Mexico.
One statistic, which states that Mexico's homicide backlog would take 124 years to solve at current rates, shows just how alarming the situation is.