02/14/16 (written by kheinle) – Homicide rates in Mexico rose in 2015 for the first time since 2011, according to Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB). The number of homicides nationwide increased from 17,324 in 2014 to 18,650 in 2015, a 7.6% jump. Alejandro Hope, former Mexican intelligence officer, commented at a “Mexico Security Review 2016” conference at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexican Institute in Washington, D.C. that, “At the current rate, there will be more homicides under [current President Enrique] Peña Nieto than under [previous President Felipe] Calderón.” Despite the rise in homicides, however, SEGOB’s data reflects a 29.0% decrease in kidnappings, dropping from 1,840 in 2014 to 1,306 in 2015, and a 14.5% reduction in cases of extortion, from 6,155 cases in 2014 to 5,262 in 2015, both positive news for the Peña Nieto administration, as it continues to battle crime and violence in Mexico.
While crime rates varied in 2015, one constant was the public’s perception of security. According to Mexico’s National Institute for Statistics and Geography’s (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI) annual report on public security, “Encuesta Nacional de Seguridad Pública Urbana (ENSU),” the percentage of Mexican’s 18 and older surveyed who felt safe living in their respective city was 32.3% in December 2015, barely up from 32.1% in December 2014 and 32.0% in December 2013. In fact, between September 2013 and December 2015, the public’s perception of security varied only 5.4%, oscillating between 27.6% and 33.0%. That still means, however, that at the end of 2015, 67.7% of Mexican felt unsafe living in their city.
Released in January 2016, ENSU data also shows a growing disillusion that the security situation will improve. From 2013 to the close of 2015, the percentage of those surveyed who believe the security situation will stay the same increased from 18.4% to 21.8%, while those who perceive security will improve decreased from 18.8% to 13.7%. The public’s feeling of insecurity stems not just from high profile crimes like murder, kidnapping, and extortion, but also from smaller crimes occurring more regularly in their neighborhoods. ENSU respondents reported that, “in the last three months of 2015, they saw or heard in and around where they live: consumption of alcohol in the streets (69.8%), theft or assault (67.1%), and vandalism (55.9%)…”
The public’s perception of insecurity in Mexico is not surprising considering the rising rates of homicide, the declining optimism that security will improve, and, among other factors, the public’s lack of confidence in police. According to ENSU results, at the end of 2015, 32.7% of Mexicans believe the Municipal Police (Policía Preventiva Municipal) are “very or somewhat effective” in their ability to combat crime, while 39.5% and 55.7% think that of State Police (Policía Estatal) and Federal Police (Policía Federal), respectively. The public expressed the most satisfaction with the National Gendarmerie (Gendarmería Nacional), rising from 61.9% saying the Gendarmerie is “very or somewhat effective” in March 2015 to 69.2% in December 2015. The Gendarmerie is an elite force of specially trained police that President Peña Nieto pledged when launching the units in August 2014 would “contribute to the protection of Mexicans, their goods and sources of employment when these are being threatened by crime.” The force has received mixed reviews since its launch.