Mexico's number of crime victims is rising

A self-reported survey of crime victims in Mexico in 2013 shows a similar upward trend to government statistics, but on a much larger scale, pointing to the huge number of crimes that go unreported.

The ENVIPE 2014 survey was conducted by Mexico's national statistics agency INEGI between March and April this year, using a sample of nearly 100,000 households.

Based on the survey results, INEGI estimated that in 10.7 million households in Mexico (33.9 percent of the total) at least one member of the household was the victim of crime in 2013, or some 22.5 million people -- a rate of 28,224 victims per 100,000 residents. 

These figures represent a slight increase from 2012, when the 32.4 percent of households were affected, and the victimization rate was 27,337 per 100,000.

The states where the most notable upticks in victimization rates occurred (see map) were Chiapas (30 percent increase), Coahuila (23 percent) and Tlaxcala (20.8 percent). Rates dropped by more than 15 percent in Chihuahua, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, and stayed fairly stable in the embattled states of Guerrero and Michoacan.

The most commonly cited crime (not including homicide or kidnapping) was street robbery (29.6 percent of the total), followed by extortion (23.6 percent). The frequency of all crimes except car theft and personal injury increased between 2012 and 2013, while more than 120,000 people were estimated to have been victims of kidnapping in 2013 -- up from around 94,000 in 2012. 

Perceptions of insecurity also rose: in 2012, 66.6 percent of citizens considered their state unsafe; in 2013, this figure rose to 72.3 percent.

 MEXICO VICTIMIZATION RATES PER 100,000 RESIDENTS (IN THOUSANDS), 2013

20141001 mexico victimization rates

 Source: INEGI 2014 victimization survey (ENVIPE)

InSight Crime Analysis

INEGI's most recent survey highlights the shortcomings of Mexico's official crime figures, which are also called into question by the fact that national statistics show that homicides are dropping as other crimes increase.

The pattern seen in the survey is largely in keeping with official statistics from Mexico's National Public Security Secretariat (SNSP), which also show a rise in kidnappings and extortion in 2013 (although they indicate robberies dropped). 

However, the survey suggests that a huge proportion of crimes in Mexico are never reported -- INEGI estimates that in 2013 more than 90 percent of crimes were not reported, while almost 94 percent were not investigated. This gap is known as the "cifra negra." The extent of under-reporting can be seen particularly with kidnappings: INEGI estimates that more than 130,000 occurred in 2013, while the SNSP recorded just 1,698.

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Another point of interest is that two states where the victimization rate dropped or stayed stable between 2012 and 2013 according to ENVIPE -- Tamaulipas and Guerrero -- saw spikes in both kidnapping and extortion in 2013, according to national figures.