Crime and Violence

ENVIPE study shows uptick in victimization, increase in “cifra negra” of unreported crimes

Photo: INEGI.
Photo: INEGI.

11/02/14 (written by cmolzahn) — Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI) has released its annual victimization survey results for 2013, and has found an uptick in crime rates over the previous year, largely as a result of a rise in crimes including robbery, assault, and extortion. The study also found that the so-called “black number” (“cifra negra”), or percentage of crimes going unreported also rose with respect to 2012, in contrary to previous statements from the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The National Survey of Victimization and Perception about Public Security (Encuesta Nacional de Victimización y Percepción sobre Seguridad Pública, ENVIPE) is a household survey providing data on victimization and crime levels, frequency of reporting crimes, victim characteristics, the crimes themselves and damages caused, public perception about security or lack thereof, and institutional response to crime, among other measures. Crimes include home and vehicle robberies, muggings, fraud, extortion, verbal threats, assault, kidnappings, and sexual assault. The survey does not attempt to measure organized crime, drug trafficking or migrant trafficking, as they do not have a measurable impact on the Mexican population. The survey was carried out in 95,516 homes throughout Mexico during March and April, and the results were released on September 30. INEGI claims that, given the high rate of crimes that go unreported the ENVIPE offers a more realistic picture of crimes with an impact on the individual or household level.

The study found that 10.7 million Mexican households, or 33.9%, contained at least one victim of a crime in 2013, accounting for 22.5 million total victims, or 28,224 per 100,000. The State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex) had the highest rate of victimization with 47,700 victims per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Baja California with 39,500, and Jalisco and the Federal District (Distrito Federal, DF), each with 33,000. By contrast, Oaxaca and Chiapas had the lowest victimization rates, with 16,200 and 16,400 per 100,000, respectively. Moreover, the study estimates that there were 33.1 million crimes committed in 2013, representing 1.5 per victim, up from 1.3 in 2012. The most common crime was muggings in the streets or public transportation, up 22% from 2012 to 12,294 incidents per 100,000 inhabitants. Extortion followed, with 9,790 estimated incidents per 100,000, up 29% from 2012. Of those, INEGI found that 94% were by phone, and 6.4% of victims paid what was demanded. The ENVIPE estimated that there were 131,946 kidnappings in 2013 distributed among 123,470 victims, which INEGI says was “statistically equivalent” to 2012, given the wide margin of error due to the relative small portion of overall crimes that kidnappings represent. Nevertheless, the estimate for overall kidnappings in 2013 was up nearly 25% from 2012, though with a 20% margin of error.

These estimates stand in stark contrast with data from Mexico’s National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP), based on investigations opened into reported crimes. According to the SNSP, there were 1,698 investigations opened into kidnappings in 2013, representing just 1.3% of ENVIPE’s estimate. The same is the case with extortion, with 98.5% of such estimated cases going either unreported or uninvestigated. According to the ENVIPE, just 9.9% of crimes were reported, of which 62.7% resulted in an investigation by a public prosecutor’s office. In all, investigations were opened into 6.2% of estimated crimes, representing a “cifra negra” of 93.8%. INEGI compares this with 63% in the United States, 69% in Canada, and 61% in the United Kingdom. Of all investigations opened by public prosecutor offices, 49.9% went unresolved. The states with the greatest cifras negras are concentrated in the midsection of the country, with Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, the State of Mexico, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Morelos, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Veracruz all registering above 94%. Guerrero led that list with a mark of 96.7% of estimated crimes going unreported and/or uninvestigated. The leading reasons for not reporting crimes were considering it to be a “waste of time” (31.4%) and a “distrust of authority” (21%). Causes attributable to views on authority—which also include excessive bureaucracy (an estimated 29.1% of victims reporting crimes reported spending four hours or more on the process)—accounted for 65.6% of unreported crimes. This was up from 61.9% in 2012.

The ENVIPE reveals that crime and public security is the foremost concern among Mexican citizens as it was in 2012, with 58.1% of respondents listing it as the most important problem. It is followed by unemployment (46.1%) and rising consumer prices (37.7%). The ENVIPE estimates that 73.3% of the population believes that living in their respective states is unsafe as a result of crime in 2014, up 1% from 2013. The perception of public security is worst in the State of Mexico, where an estimated 92.6% feel their state is unsafe, followed by Morelos (89%) and Tabasco (86.1%). The states with the most positive perception of public security were Yucatán (29.5% expressing feeling their state is unsafe), Baja California Sur (30.1%), and Querétaro (38.5%). Again, the most negative perceptions are centered around the country’s midsection, with Zacatecas, Tamaulipas, Michoacán, the State of Mexico, Morelos, Veracruz, and Tabasco all registering above 80%. Respondents continue to view the Mexican armed forces in the most positive light among law enforcement institutions, with 84.4% of respondents expressing “much or some” confidence in the Navy and 80.7% for the Army. By contrast, the Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) followed with 57.7%, up nearly 3% from 2013. Municipal and transit police continue to receive the lowest confidence ratings, with 37.5% and 33.5%, respectively.


Press Release. “Encuesta Nacional de Victimización y Percepción sobre Seguridad Pública (ENVIPE) 2014.” Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. September 30, 2014.

Cifras de incidencia delictiva 1997-2014. Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública. Accessed November 1, 2014.

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