Mexico: Improving crime risk perceptions lag underlying trend

Public perceptions of the prevalence of crime and security risks in Mexico are improving, but at a slower pace than the underlying trend of a longer-term improvement in the real incidence of crime shown by statistics.

That is the key finding of the most recent nationwide quarterly survey on public security conducted by INEGI, Mexico’s national statistics institute.

The figures, released today and derived from household surveys conducted during March, found that 67.9% of respondents in urban areas held a perception of insecurity, a 4.5 percentage-point decline on a year earlier.

The survey also found that 38.1% of people believed the situation would remain ‘just as bad’ over the coming year, a sharp increase on the 35.3% that held that view in December.

It is the highest rate of ‘scepticism’ of an improvement since the quarterly survey series began in September 2013. In contrast, 25.0% believed things would worsen over the coming 12 months, while only 15.6% of respondents believed their perceptions of the incidence of crime would improve.

Regarding the effectiveness of Mexico’s different police forces’ abilities to combat or prevent crime, significant majorities of respondents held an overwhelmingly negative view of municipal and state security forces, whereas more people held a favourable than a negative view of the federal police and its gendarmerie division.

The survey was carried out in major urban areas and incorporated the results from respondents in 2,336 homes.

A better longer-term view of crime and security in Mexico can be found in the most recent analysis produced by the national citizens observatory of security and justice, ONC, a Mexican NGO.

According to the ONC, which in its analyses attempts to iron out the inconsistencies and statistical mismatches in the crime data released periodically by Mexico’s various official entities, the underlying trend is of an improvement.

For example, nationwide figures for murder during January 2015 showed a 6.4% decline on a year earlier, and a 31% fall since January 2011, the worst year on record during the past decade. The highest murder figures were recorded in the states of Mexico, Guerrero, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Sinaloa.

The incidence of manslaughter, in contrast, showed only a 0.8% decline in January this year, compared with January 2014, which had the highest incidence during the past decade.

The prevalence of kidnapping also shows a progressive decline, according to the ONC.

In January 2015, 89 kidnappings were recorded across Mexico. This represented a 33% decline on the 133 abductions denounced in January 2014, when the total was barely one less than the 134 recorded in January 2013.

There are of course regional variations to the underlying, nationwide trend. And many kidnappings are thought to go unreported to the authorities. The most marked increase in the incidence of kidnapping in January this year was in Mexico state, where the total increased by 23% to 18. In contrast, in the troubled north-eastern Gulf state of Tamaulipas, kidnappings in January declined by 22% to 17.