Crime and Violence

Report on 50 most violent cities worldwide includes nine Mexican cities

SJP_top_violent_cities01/24/14 — Nine Mexican cities are listed among the 50 most violent cities in the world in 2013, according to a recent study by the Mexican organization Security, Justice, and Peace (Seguridad, Justicia y Paz, SJP) of the Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice (Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y Justicia Penal A.C.). The ranking is based strictly on homicide rates per 100,000 citizens, and does not include any cities with less than 300,000 residents. Acapulco ranks the highest as the third most violent city in the world with a homicide rate of 112.80 per 100,000, followed by Culiacán in 16th (rate of 54.57), Torreón in 18th (54.24), Chihuahua in 21st (50.12), Ciudad Victoria in 22nd (49.22), Nuevo Laredo in 30th (42.90), Ciudad Juárez in 37th (37.59), Cuernavaca in 43rd (34.91), and Tijuana in 47th (32.50). Only San Pedro Sula, Honduras and Caracas, Venezuela were considered more violent than Acapulco, with homicide rates of 187.14 and 134.36 per 100,000, respectively.

The SJP report highlights the changes in homicide rates in Mexico during the past year. Although the city of Monterrey, Nuevo León ranked 47th in 2012 with a homicide rate of 30.85, it saw a substantial enough decrease in its rate to avoid the 2013 list. Ciudad Juárez has also seen notable reductions in its homicide rates, having ranked first on the list in 2008, 2009, and 2010, then dropping to second in 2011 and even further to 19th in 2012, before settling into 37th place in 2013. However, despite the improvements in those cities, this is the first year Tijuana has been on the list since its 2008 and 2009, when violence in the border city peaked. Mexico also had the second most cities to place in the SJP ranking with nine cities named, surpassed only by Brazil (16), and followed closely by Colombia (6), Venezuela (5), the United States (4), and Honduras (2). Meanwhile, the most violent U.S. city in 2013 was Detroit, which ranked 24th with a homicide rate of 46.99. New Orleans (26), Baltimore (36), and St. Louis (45) also made the list. The Americas far outnumbered the rest of the world with the highest homicide rates with 46 of the 50 ranked cities coming from the Western Hemisphere, and 41 specifically from Latin America.

To compile its research for the Mexican portion of the report, SJP used data published by Mexican state governments, as well the Executive Secretary of the National System of Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP), the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática, INEGI), and select media reports. According to SJP, the lack of transparency in Mexico’s official reporting on homicides in 2012 called into question the validity of the states’ reports and pushed SJP to use alternative sources to gather data. The most egregious discrepancies between 2012 homicide rates reported by state governments and those documented by INEGI, for example, were found in Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Chihuahua. While the Tamaulipas state government reported 288 homicides in Nuevo Laredo in 2012, INEGI registered 544, an almost 89% higher total that would have moved Nuevo Laredo from the eighth to the third most violent city that year. Meanwhile in Torreón, Coahuila, a 71% difference in homicide rates were reported, while a 62% variance was documented for Chihuahua, Chihuahua.

Despite the data discrepancy, Mexico, along with a number of other Latin America countries, indeed faces significant public security issues, which includes the high rates of homicide. SJP President José Antonio Ortega commented on the situation, stating “Most of the violence in Mexico stems from infighting among criminal groups rather than from encounters between government forces and criminal groups.” Nevertheless, as the on-going situation in Michoacán exemplifies, disputes between criminal organizations, security forces, and community self-defense groups all play some role in Mexico’s elevated homicide rates.


Ortega, José A. “Por tercer año consecutivo, San Pedro Sula es la ciudad más violenta del mundo.” Seguridad, Justicia y Paz. January 15, 2014.

“San Pedro Sula otra vez primer lugar mundial; Acapulco el segundo.” Seguridad, Justicia y Paz. January 15, 2014.

“Ranking: 9 de las 50 ciudades más violentas están en México.” ADN Político. January 16, 2014.

Washington Valdez, Diana. “Dangerous cities: Juarez drops in violence rank.” El Paso Times. January 18, 2014.

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  1. Pingback: SJP: Oaxaca is Mexico’s most violent municipality in 2013; Guerrero the most violent state | Justice in Mexico

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