Feb 012011

It is commonly believed that crime and murder rates are highest in the largest cities. Is this the case for Mexican drug war deaths? Recently available data (from Mexican government) on drug war deaths indicate that this generalization is definitely NOT TRUE for Mexico’s largest cities. Drug war deaths include deaths of drug cartel members, law enforcement personnel, and innocent by-standers.

True, the largest numbers of deaths were recorded in some of the larger cities: Ciudad Juárez (6,637 deaths), Culiacán in the state of Sinaloa (1,890), Tijuana (1,667), Chihuahua City (1,415), and Acapulco (661). On the other hand, the number of deaths per 100,000 population was four to five times higher in some small municipalities in the states of Chihuahua, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Nuevo León. A future post will take a more in-depth look at the drug war death rates in these smaller communities.

In this post, we consider only those Mexican municipalities whose 2010 population exceeded 700,000. The table below indicates drug war death rates per 100,000 population since December 2006 for the 22 Mexican municipalities with 2010 populations over 700,000. It is no surprise that the rate for Ciudad Juárez (484.7) is the highest, about 16 times the national average of 30.8. The city accounted for about 30% of the country’s drug war deaths during the four year period. In general, the cities with the highest rates are in the northern or western areas with concentrated drug cartel activity. However, Saltillo in the northern state of Coahuila has one of the lowest rates.

Only six of the largest 22 municipalities in the table have death rates above the national average. Monterrey is just below the average, Guadalajara is less than a third the average and Mexico City is less than a quarter. Two Mexico City suburbs, Nezahualcoyotl and Ecatepec in the State of Mexico, have rates nearly twice that of the capital, but are still less than half the national average. Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara has a rate 36% higher than Guadalajara.

Puebla, the center of the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country has an extremely low rate, less than 3% of the national average. Querétaro and Mérida also have very low rates.

Our next post in this mini-series will look at the smaller municipalities which tend to have the highest drug war death rates of all.

Previous posts in this mini-series:

Related posts about the geography of drug trafficking and drug cartels in Mexico:

Other relevant link

Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico discusses drug trafficking in several chapters. A text box on page 148 looks at drug trafficking business and efforts to control it. Buy your copy today to have a handy reference guide to all major aspects of Mexico’s geography!

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