Bullet casings at a crime scene in Mexico.

A study linking a percentage of Mexico's homicides to organized crime offers a different view of the rising violence depicted through government homicide figures, which do not discriminate between all killings and those related to criminal groups.

From January to September 2016, organized crime was responsible for 8,815 homicides, which amounts to 58 percent of all homicides during that period and a 47 percent increase in comparison to the same period the previous year, according to the study by Semáforo Delictivo and Lantia Consultores. The data was obtained through the monitoring of media reports, according to Animal Politico, and by comparing the killing count with official homicide statistics.

According to Mexico's National System for Public Security (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública - SNSP), the total number of homicides during the first three quarters of 2016 reached 15,201, a more than 20 percent increase in comparison to the 12,660 homicides registered over the same period in 2015 (pdf). In September, 1,974 homicides were registered, ranking it as the most violent month since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012.

Using the official data, the most violent states in 2016 were Colima, Guerrero, Sinaloa, Baja California and Morelos. But after applying their methodology, Semáforo Delictivo produced a different ranking -- states with the highest number of organized crime-related homicides -- in which the rundown changes to Guerrero first, followed by the states of Mexico, Michoacán, Chihuahua and Sinaloa.

The combination of both the official data and Semáforo Delictivo's also provides the percentage of a state's registered homicides committed by organized crime. And in those terms, Baja California Sur, Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas, Aguascalientes and Michoacán are the worst offenders. According to the study, at least 90 percent of all murders in those states during the first nine months of 2016 were perpetrated by organized crime.

Due to discrepancies between the sources, Baja California Sur holds a percentage superior to 100 percent, an impossible figure which stems from the fact that Lantia Consultores detected media coverage of a total of 131 organized-crime related killings, while the government only registered an overall total of 123 homicides. (See InSight Crime's graphics below)

20161027MexicoOCHomicidesTable2

 

2016-10-27-MexicoOCMurderMap2 

InSight Crime Analysis

The methodology used by Semáforo Delictivo and Lantia Consultores is by no means foolproof -- especially when attempting to designate responsibility for homicides using press coverage. But if considered with a sufficient margin of error, the data is of value as it offers an alternative picture than that offered by government homicide records, which themselves may be contested on methodological basis and whose accuracy has been questioned.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Homicides

The numbers confirm a trend of increasing violence this year on which InSight Crime has previously reported, and some of the percentages of organized crime's share of murders are hair-raising.

The figures reflect the criminal dynamics playing out across the country. It is of little surprise that Michoacán appears twice among the leading states, and that neighboring Guerrero suffers the most from homicides related to organized crime. The former has been a hotbed for both criminal groups and vigilantes alike, and its criminal landscape saw considerable turmoil this year. As for Guerrero, it has become the epicenter of Mexico's growing poppy cultivation and is territory contested by some say as many as 50 different criminal groups. Outbursts of violence have repeatedly placed the state and its capital Acapulco in the headlines as the most violent part of the country in recent years.

SEE ALSO: Mexico's Security Dilemma: Michoacán's Militias

Similarly, the states of Chihuahua and Sinaloa have been battle grounds for competing drug trafficking organizations, while Tamaulipas has historically been one of the most crime-ridden and corrupt states in Mexico. Sinaloa has been particularly destabilized in recent weeks by what appears to be a weakening of the Sinaloa Cartel as the extradition of its leader El Chapo Gúzman to the United States becomes more likely. This has prompted rival groups to go on the offensive.

The seeming vulnerability of the Sinaloa Cartel has also created an incentive for attacks outside of its home territory, with the capital of Baja California Sur suffering from an increase in killings as rival groups may be uniting to confront the weakened cartel. 

These shifting dynamics within the criminal landscape do not bode well for this year's homicide figures, whether general or specifically related to organized crime. It is very likely that the trend of increasing violence shown so far this year will remain steady.

Investigations

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