Mar 082012

Previous posts have analyzed drug war death rates in Mexican states, cities over 500,000, the most violent municipalities and areas of particular interest to expatriates. This post focuses on Mexico City or D.F. (Distrito Federal). We focus on D.F. because the rate of drug war deaths is exceptionally low there, less than one eighth the national average.

In all of 2010 there were 191 drug war deaths in D.F. [note 1] compared to 122 in the first nine months of 2011. [note 2] While this might sound like a large number of deaths, we must remember that there are almost nine million people in D.F.  The 2011 drug war death rate per 100,000/yr in D.F. was 1.8 compared to a national rate 15.3 and a rate of 134 in Acapulco. [note 3] The rate for D.F. declined 15% from the 2010 rate while the rates for all of Mexico and Acapulco increased by 13% and 187% respectively. Today, people seeking better security are moving into D.F. from other cities in the country.

Why are the rates in D.F. so low? In previous decades D.F. was thought to be one of the most violent places in the country, but this is no longer the case. The total murder rate for D.F. is half the national rate [note 4] and less than a third that of Washington, DC. [note 5] A major reason is that D.F. has a more competent, better organized, better paid and less corrupt police force than any of the other cities. The fact that the national government is in D.F. also helps as do more effective youth programs. That D.F. has higher overall income levels is also a factor. Some even speculate that major cartel bosses have family in D.F. and have an unspoken agreement to avoid violence in the capital [note 6].

The drug war death rates are quite low in all parts of the city. The wealthy delegation of Cuajimalpa in western D.F. had zero deaths in 2011 compared to 11 a year earlier. In 2010 it had the city’s highest rate of 5.9, but this was still less than half the national average. Relatively sparsely populated Milpa Alta in the southeast also had zero deaths in 2011. Cuauhtemoc and Venustiano Carranza, two central delegations, had the highest rates in 2011, but they both less than a third the national average.

The 13 suburban municipalities adjacent to D.F. in the State of Mexico experienced 331 drug war deaths in 2011, almost three times the number in D.F. These suburbs with a total population of just over six million had a combined drug war death rate of 7.3, four times as high as D.F. While the death rate in these municipalities increased 42% over the 2010 level, it was still less than half the national average. Based on the data presented above, it is not surprising that people worried about drug violence would rather live in or near D.F. than in most other cities, especially those in northern and western Mexico.

  1. “Mexican drugs war murders data mapped”, The Guardian, posted by Johanna Tuckman, Jan 14, 2011. For data see:
  2. “Van mas de 47 mil muertos por nacroviolencia: PGR”, El Universal, 12 January 2012,
  3. The rates for 2011 were adjusted because data are available for only the first nine months of the year.
  4. “Is Mexico City safe from drug cartel war – or the next target,” CNN, January 17, 2012, .
  5. “Mexico’s violence not as widespread as seems,” USAToday, 3 August 2010.
  6. Is Mexico City safe from drug cartel war — or the next target,” CNN, January 17, 2012, .