Crime and Violence

National security survey reveals levels of crime victimization relatively flat, citizen perception of public security lower

In its sixth annual National Security Survey (ENSI-6), the InstitutoCiudadano de EstudiosSobre la Inseguridad (ICESI) found that the feelings of public security among Mexican citizens has declined while the rate of victimization has remained stagnant. ICESI is an organization studying public security in Mexico since 2002 and founded through the combined efforts of business organizations and universities including the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The survey was carried out in 71,370 homes in urban and rural areas of the country, and asked participants 18 and over to share their experiences as victims of crimes as well as their perceptions of their own security situation.

Of those questioned, 13.1% reported that someone in their household had been the victim of a crime in 2008, relatively flat compared to the year before. Of the crimes experienced by the reported victims, being robbed in transit held the largest share at nearly 30% of the total, though it was down from 42% in 2007. “Partial auto theft” was next at 27%, up from 20% the year before. Interestingly, extortion, which accounted for 10% of reported crimes, is included in the “other crimes” category, so there is no comparison to 2007.  “Other crimes,” though, were up nearly 10% from 2007 to 16.4%, suggesting a notable spike in extortions.

The Federal District (DF) was the entity with the highest percentage of respondents claiming to have been victimized somewhere in the country, though down 2% from last year to 19% of total respondents. Aguascalientes, Sonora, Mexico (Edomex), Coahuila, Baja California, and Chihuahua follow. The same order applies to respondents claiming to have been victimized in their own state. Of those states, Aguascalientes, Sonora, Coahuila, and Chihuahua are up substantially from 2007, with Coahuila up 10% to 15% of its respondents claiming to have been victimized in their own state.

The rate of weapon possession by alleged assailants has remained nearly flat, though respondents claim that as a whole gun possession by aggressors dropped since 2007. The survey found that 25% of respondents reported that their aggressors were carrying a weapon, of which 34% said they were assaulted with the weapon. While those numbers are up slightly from 2007, the percentage of respondents reporting the use of a gun dropped to 54% from 64% the year before. Conversely, there was a 7% rise in claims that assailants employed some form of knife. The state of Mexico (Edomex) had the highest percentage of respondents claiming to have been victimized by an armed assailant, at 44%, followed by the Federal District (37%) and Guerrero (33%).

The rate at which crimes are reported has remained nearly flat since 2004. ENSI-6 reports that only 22% of crimes were reported to the authorities in 2008, compared to 21% in 2007 and 23% in 2004. Of those crimes reported to authorities in 2008, ENSI-6 shows that only two-thirds resulted in a preliminary investigation, a figure relatively flat from 2007, but down substantially from 2004, when over 85% were reported to have resulted in a preliminary investigation. When asked why they did not report the crime to which they were victims, nearly 40% of respondents replied that it would be a “waste of time” to do so.

While the rate of victimization remained nearly flat in 2008 as compared to 2007 according to the ENSI-6, the perception of public safety declined notably. Nationwide, 65% of respondents consider their respective states to be unsafe, as compared to 59% in 2007 and 54% in 2004. Respondents in the Federal District remain the most concerned with safety, although Chihuahua, Guanajuato, and Durango saw sizeable jumps, from 64 to 83%, 43 to 75%, and 34 to 62%, respectively. A similar trend followed when respondents were asked about security in their own municipalities. The marked increased perception of public security threats suggests that the narcoterrorismtactics of the nation’s drug cartels may be having their desired effect.

This increased sense of public insecurity, along with respondents’ continued high rates of distrust of their municipal and state police forces, likely explain why 86% of respondents agree with federal anti-drug operations being carried out by the military, although fewer than 60% feel that the operations have improved public security.


“Sextaencuestanacionalsobreinseguridad.” Institutociudadano de estudiossobre la inseguridadAugust, 2009.  Accessed September 14, 2009 at

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