Crime and Violence

Mexico ranks number one on list of kidnapping rates worldwide

SESNSP_kidnapping_data12/17/13 — The global risk consultancy group Control Risk released its annual RiskMap study this month, a report that analyzes the current and future risks countries face in terms of political, security, and kidnapping situations. While Mexico ranks low in political risk and medium to high in security risk, the RiskMap 2014 reports that Mexico has the highest rate of kidnapping for the first half of 2013. It accounts for 20% of all kidnappings worldwide that Control Risk recorded from January to June 2013, and is up one spot from last year when it ranked second in kidnapping rates only behind Nigeria. According to Mexico’s Executive Office of the National Public Security System (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP), from January through October 2013, Mexico had recorded 1,425 cases of kidnapping, which is higher than all previous years on record.

This year’s RiskMap ranks Mexico above India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Venezuela, who round out the top five countries with the highest kidnappings on record through the first half of 2013, while Lebanon, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Colombia, and Iraq make up the remaining top ten. Meanwhile, 28% of all kidnappings during that period occurred in the Americas, while 23% occurred just in Latin America. According to Control Risks, Latin America has seen a 50% decline in its kidnapping rate since 2005. The study also breaks down the kidnappings by state, finding that Morelos has the most kidnappings per capita in the country, although the Federal District (Distrito Federal, DF) and State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex) have the highest number of absolute kidnappings recorded. According to the SESNSP, Edomex and the DF recorded the most kidnappings by state from 2006-2012 under the Calderón administration, registering 762 and 712 kidnappings, respectively. Other areas Control Risks highlighted for 2013 included the Border States of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas, as well as Durango, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Veracruz. (Read more in the Justice in Mexico Project’s Fact Sheet: Kidnapping Trends in Mexico).

Source: Control Risks.
Source: Control Risks.

Control Risks points to the high rate of kidnappings in Mexico largely as a result of two systemic problems: high levels of corruption and involvement of Mexican police and security in kidnapping cases, and the strong presence of organized crime groups that have diversified their illicit engagements to now include kidnapping, extortion, and ransom. According to RiskMap 2014, “police are involved in an estimated seven out of every ten kidnaps that occur in Mexico,” sometimes serving as informants to the kidnappers, and other times being physically involved in the kidnapping. Dwight Dyer, an analyst at Control Risks and the former director of Mexico’s Center for Research and National Security (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional, CISEN), commented on the report, stating that “Although this year some crimes like homicide have decreased, other crimes of high impact, like kidnapping and extortion, have increased.” Control Risks also highlights that kidnapping is no longer just kidnap-for-ransom, but that express kidnaps (smaller ransoms) and virtual kidnaps (demanding ransom through Internet without ever having kidnapped the victim) have also increased as local and foreign nationals are targeted.

Kidnappings have been on the rise in Mexico since 2006, the same time that former President Felipe Calderón took office. When President Enrique Peña Nieto was sworn in December 2012, he expressed concern over the rise in kidnappings, claiming that upon taking office his administration would tackle the problem head on. However, in his first year in office, there have been no major developments to address the problem despite pressure from civil society. 


“Fact Sheet: Kidnapping Trends in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico Project. May 2013.

Baptista, Diana. “Lidera México en secuestros.” Reforma. December 14, 2013.

Redacción. “Es México líder mundial… en secuestros.” Proceso. December 14, 2013.

“Incidencia Delictiva del Fueto Común.” Secretaría de Gobernación: Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública. Last accessed December 17, 2013.

“RiskMap 2014.” Control Risks. Last accessed December 17, 2013.

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