Crime and Violence

Intentional homicides continue decline into first quarter of 2014, while kidnappings and extortion remain at elevated levels

04/30/14 (written by cmolzahn) — During the first three months of 2014, the National System for Public Security (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP) registered 4,497 intentional homicides (homicidios dolosos) nationwide. These numbers represent the first time victims have been represented by SNSP tallies, as opposed to the number of investigations opened (averiguaciones previas). These can under-represent the number of victims, as more than one casualty can be involved in a single investigation. For example, there were 1,410 investigations opened into intentional homicides in March, while there were 1,577 victims represented in the government’s data. During the first three months of 2014, there have been between 10-12% more victims than averiguaciones previas. The number of victims in March (1,577) represents an increase of almost 12% more than February (1,411), and is nearly level with January (1,509).

Source: INEGI.
Source: INEGI.

During the first quarter of 2014, there were 4,047 averiguaciones previas reported by Mexico’s states and the Federal District (Distrito Federal, DF), representing an 8% decline from the last quarter of 2013, and a 12% decline from the corresponding period of last year. The drop in intentional homicides from a year ago would be even more notable if not for the case of Michoacán, which reported 272 investigations between January and March of this year. While this does represent a decline of 14% from the final quarter of 2013, it is still a 55% increase over the same period from last year. Homicides in the state spiked in October (114) and November (103) of last year, and had declined steadily over December (99), January (91) and February (81), before spiking again to 100 in March.

A phenomenon that underscores the discrepancy between averiguaciones previas and victims of intentional homicide is the continued discovery of clandestine graves spread across several states, particularly in the north of the country. According to consulting group Lantia, as reported by Excélsior, the official numbers of homicides do not reflect the approximately 500 bodies found buried across several northern municipalities of Coahuila between January and March of this year, as a result of a government effort to locate missing persons. Also clouding the numbers of victims of intentional homicide are the roughly 24,800 missing persons reported by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) last June, an estimate that was consistent with that of the Mexican government.

Of the total victims reported by the SNSP, those found in mass graves are the only ones that we can assume to be victims of organized crime violence, as the federal government elected last spring to no longer distinguish persons murdered by organized crime groups (OCG), stating that they did not wish to give any one classification of homicide a perceived preference over any other. Unfortunately, the weekly data published by Reforma, which Justice in Mexico has made use of since 2006 to track OCG-related killings, has become less consistently reported since the end of the Calderón administration in 2012, and no longer includes data for individual states, nor tallies of police officers and military personnel killed, cases of torture, and beheadings, among other distinguishing data.

Nevertheless, through March 28, Reforma had tallied 1,883 OCG-related homicides. This compares with 2,545 such killings between September 27 and January 3, or a 26% decline. During the first quarter of 2014, OCG-related killings as reported by Reforma’s approximated weekly totals represented just under 42% of the number of victims of intentional homicides reported by the SNSP, and 46.5% of averiguaciones previas. This same ratio was 48.7% in the fourth quarter of 2013, and 45% over the course of that year. Unfortunately, an accurate year-end tally from Reforma for 2012 is not available due to a break in the data following Enrique Peña Nieto taking office in December. However, 2011 and 2010 saw a peak in representation of OCG-related killings among SNSP’s data on averiguaciones previas, registering 54% and 56%, respectively, following 41% in 2009.

Sources: INEGI, SNSP, Reforma, Milenio. Projections calculated by JMP with assistance from economist Topher McDougal. See JMP's "Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2013" for more information.
Sources: INEGI, SNSP, Reforma, Milenio. Projections calculated by JMP with assistance from economist Topher McDougal. See JMP’s “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2013” for more information.

While the Peña Nieto administration has overseen a steady decline in intentional homicides as reported by attorney general offices of the states and the Federal District, as well as OCG-related homicides tallied by Reforma, kidnappings and extortions continue to be reported at elevated levels as compared with past years. During the first three months of 2014, there were 509 reported victims of kidnapping and 1,939 victims of extortion nationwide, according to the SNSP. Since there are no data on victims of these crimes preceding January of this year, we will rely on averiguaciones previas for kidnapping and extortion for comparison’s sake, which totaled 428 and 1,864, respectively. These numbers have remained relatively stable since the beginning of 2013; throughout 2013, there were an average of 141 kidnappings opened each month, as compared with 142 during the first quarter of 2014. Investigations into extortions actually made a slight decline during the same time, with an average of 621 per month, as compared with 653 for 2013. The increase in 2013 over the previous year, however, was notable, in the case of kidnappings jumping 20.5%, or an average of 24 cases per month. The rise in extortions was less notable, up 5.6% in 2013 over the previous year, though there was a 22% increase since 2010, at the peak of the violence stemming from the Calderón administration’s war with Mexican drug cartels. Experts widely agree that the increase in reported kidnappings and extortion is likely due to OCGs seeking to diversify their criminal activities due to the increased cost and risk of trafficking drugs. This has been particularly visible in Michoacán, where the Knights Templar Organization (Caballeros Templarios, KTO) has succeeded in deeply infiltrating into local economies, even entering into the state’s lucrative mining industry.

These data on kidnappings are limiting in their value in accurately gauging the extent of the public security threat it poses, given the widely-accepted “cifra negra,” or number of such cases that go unreported due to victims’ fear of reprisal from their perpetrators, as well as the fear that law enforcement officials were complicit, or even participated in the crime. In its annual report on victimization for 2012 (Encuesta Nacional de Victimización y Percepción sobre seguridad Pública, ENVIPE), the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas y Geografía, INEGI) calculated 105,682 kidnappings for the year, which would point to a cifra negra of 98.6% for such crimes. This was the first time that INEGI calculated victimization levels for federal crimes (delitos graves), which includes kidnappings.

For more information on OCG-related violence in Mexico, check out Justice in Mexico’s new report, “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2013.”


“Encuesta nacional de victimización y percepción sobre seguridad pública 2013.” Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. September 30, 2013.

Heinle, et. al. “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2013.” Justice in Mexico. April 15, 2014.

“Ejecutómetro 2014.” Reforma. Last accessed April 26, 2014.

Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública. “Cifras de la incidencia delictiva.” Secretaría de Gobernación. Last accessed April 29, 2014.

Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública. “Informe de víctimas de homicidio, secuestro y extorsión 2014.” Secretaría de Gobernación. April 2014.

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