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Kidnappings soar in crime-ravaged Mexico

October 2, 2013

Somewhere in Mexico, someone is being kidnapped right now. By the time you finish reading this article, another person will have been abducted.

Across Mexico, there were 290 kidnappings a day last year, one every five minutes. Those figures have since risen.

Only a tiny percentage of cases are even investigated, let alone solved. The National Institute of Geography and Statistics (INEGI) estimates that there were over 105,600 kidnappings in Mexico in 2012, 79 times more than the 1,371 abductions that were reported to the authorities.

There are several reasons why Mexicans choose not to go the police. Most people believe it a waste of time, according to INEGI’s National Survey of Victimization and Perception of Public Safety 2013. The police do not always investigate such cases; they been known to charge families in return for helping to locate kidnap victims; and in some cases corrupt officers are directly responsible for the kidnappings.

Impunity not only encourages criminals; it also breeds a greater lack of trust in the police, which in turn leads to fewer crimes being reported. It is a vicious cycle, one that saw over a quarter of adults falling victim to crime in Mexico last year.

In Jalisco, the INEGI survey found that only 11.3 percent of crimes were reported to the police last year. Given that the authorities do not even launch preliminary investigations into all of the crimes that are reported to them, INEGI estimates that 93.8 percent of felonies are never investigated in Jalisco. Nationally, the figure is 92.1 percent.

Across Mexico, there were 1,188 reported kidnappings in the first nine months of the Enrique Peña Nieto presidency, according to National Public Security System (SNSP) data, a 19-percent rise from the last nine months of the Felipe Calderon administration.

Leaving aside the fact that the number of unreported kidnappings would have been significantly higher, this increase represents a worrying trend that was confined to around a third of the country. In the last nine months, 70 percent of Mexico’s kidnappings were concentrated in nine states: Guerrero, Hidalgo, Mexico State, Michoacan, Morelos, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas and Veracruz. The number of kidnappings in every one of these states has risen between 21 and 71 percent since Peña Nieto took up office.

In the same period, the number of reported kidnappings fell in the Federal District and the states of Durango, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo and San Luis Potosi, while in Mexico’s other states the number of cases remained practically unchanged or too few to allow for a relevant statistical analysis.

While kidnapping remains one of the most serious crimes facing the population, more people fell victim to muggings than any other crime last year, the INEGI survey showed. However, in Jalisco, more people were affected by extortion than any other crime, followed by vehicular theft and then muggings.

Nationwide, 21.6 million people aged over 18 were victims of crime last year, equivalent to 27.3 percent of Mexico’s adult population. In Jalisco, the crime rate was above average, with more than 1.6 million adults victimized, equivalent to 31.9 percent of the population and a 24.9-percent rise from 2011.

This is the first time that INEGI has conducted such an in-depth survey of crime in Mexico. Although it relies on estimates rather than official data, the survey’s accuracy was proven by its estimation of 25,853 homicides in 2012, which was just 1.7 percent off the official total of 26,037.

The murder rate looks set to fall slightly this year, with the SNSP having counted 12,198 homicides in the first eight months of the year. This is good news for the Peña Nieto administration, which has been keen to play down Mexico’s problems with drug-related violence. However, the SNSP’s recent assertion that only 53.5 percent of August’s 1,453 murders were linked to organized crime may be met with considerable skepticism, given that 71.6 percent of all murders in Mexico were believed to be linked to organized crime as recently as January.

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