Sep 202010

All the recent media attention to drug war violence suggests that homicide rates in Mexico are increasing rapidly. This is undoubtedly true, but only in certain areas. The available data from the Mexican National Public Security System (SNSP) does not uniformly support the contention that homicide rates are on the rise.

SNSP data show that Mexico’s homicide rate has declined by 23% since 1997. It declined for 20 of Mexico’s 32 states.  According to SNSP, the national homicide rate of 37 per 100,000 population declined by 36% to 24 in 2007, before edging up 20% to 29 in 2009, the most recent year for which data available. However, since 2007 the homicide rate has declined in nine states. Clearly, there are enormous differences in homicide rates among Mexico’s states. A future blog will focus on states with low and declining homicide rates.

The increases in some states since 2007 may well be related to drug war violence. The estimated 28,000 drug war deaths reported in the media is significant compared to the 111,000 homicides in Mexico for the four year period 2006–2009.

The states with homicide rates above 40 in 2009 and which have increased since 2006 are shown in the table. Undoubtedly, drug war violence is an important factor in many of these states, particularly Chihuahua, Durango, Sinaloa, Guerrero and Michoacán.

StateHomicide rate per 100,000 population, 2009Increase, 2006–2009 (%)
Quintana Roo52124

International comparisons are difficult due to differences in definitions and in data collection methods. For example, the fatal shooting of an intruder, death committed in self-defense, or death caused by  a drunk driver may count as a homicide in some countries and not in others. In rough terms, data appear to show that homicide rates in Mexico are about four times those in the USA, but less than half of the rates in Colombia or South Africa.

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