The newly released Mexico Peace Index provides a comprehensive, if inexact, measure of short- and long-term crime and violence trends in Mexico by examining progress on a number of security indicators.
Produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the third edition of the Mexico Peace Index (MPI) (pdf) found peace improved in the country by 0.3 percent during 2015, the smallest improvement in the last five years.
The report largely attributed this improvement to a 10 percent decline in the violent crime rate and an 8 percent decline in the rate of organized crime related offenses, including kidnapping, extortion, and drug-related crime. These improvements, however, were offset by deteriorations in prison detentions without sentencing, weapons crime, and the homicide rate.
Mexico's homicide rate rose in 2015 for the first time in four years, the MPI found, increasing 6.3 percent to nearly 14 per 100,000 people.
The index says Mexico's peacefulness has improved 13 percent since 2011. During that time, violent crime, homicides, and organized crime have collectively fallen by nearly 30 percent, according to the MPI's measures.
The MPI reports that these improvements in peacefulness have generated an economic benefit of around $50 billion in Mexico since 2011. Nonetheless, the economic impact of violence for 2015, including opportunity costs, was measured at $134 billion, or 13 percent of Mexico's GDP.
Out of Mexico's 32 states, 25 have become more peaceful since 2011, affecting 85 percent of the Mexican population.
The five states with the largest improvements in their MPI scores since 2011 are: Nayarit, Durango, Nuevo León, Chihuahua, and Baja California. Those with the largest deterioration were: Baja California Sur, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, Querétaro, and Guanajuato.
The largest deterioration occurred in Baja California Sur, where the homicide rate has more than tripled from 5.7 in 2011 to 19.8 in 2015.
Overall, the MPI ranked Hidalgo the most peaceful state in Mexico, while the least peaceful is Guerrero.
A top area of concern identified by the MPI is a trend towards impunity and an increase in detention without sentencing.
The MPI, however, identified several dynamics that impact the reliability of official crime statistics, including: underreporting, inaccurate reporting, and non-inclusion of missing persons in statistics.
More than 26,000 people have been reported missing in Mexico since 2007, the report affirmed.
InSight Crime Analysis
Measuring an intangible concept such as "peace" is difficult. For its purposes, the MPI defines peace "as the absence of violence or fear of violence."
As such, the MPI's findings that Mexico's peace has, on the whole, improved in recent years, slightly contrasts with a new survey (pdf) by Mexico's statistics agency (Institute Nacional de Estadística y Geografía - INEGI) on urban security perceptions. The INEGI found 70 percent of respondents feel unsafe in their city, a percentage that has remained steady over the last three years, suggesting popular fears over violence remain.
Nonetheless, by providing standardized data to measure peacefulness in Mexico since 2003, the MPI offers a useful if imperfect view of the country's security environment. Its comprehensive nature serves as a starting point for identifying trends and regions in Mexico where security conditions are deteriorating, as well as a basis for policy discussions.
The MPI also confirms observations that progress towards improved security has stalled in Mexico. To start 2016, homicide statistics have risen to their highest levels in recent years, and states like Guerrero remain mired in the grips of violent criminal groups.