Counting Mexico City’s Security Blessings, Curses

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Homicides in Mexico City are reportedly at their highest levels since the turn of the 21st century, a telling reminder that the capital city’s status as an economic and political power serves as both a security blessing and curse.

Violence rose 21 percent during the first eight months of 2015 in Mexico’s Federal District (DF) compared to the same time period last year, The Wall Street Journal recently reported. The capital’s murder rate during the first eight months is the highest since 1998, according to the Journal.

Homicides remained high during the month of September, with a reported 22 percent increase over the number of murders registered in September 2014. 

Security analysts told The Wall Street Journal that fighting among criminal groups is likely contributing to the rise in violence. 

“It’s plausible that the rise in crimes, at least in part, has to do with the fight among gangs for an increasingly attractive [illicit drug] market,” said Raul Toledo, a security consultant and former city official. 

Meanwhile, the recent discovery of a body that bore signs of torture hanging from a Mexico City bridge has conjured up images of past brutal killings in Mexican states with a heavy organized crime presence.

InSight Crime Analysis

Long considered a safe haven from organized crime, Mexico City’s jump in murders this year — alongside vicious acts such as the hanging corpse — is a testament to how the capital has started to attract criminal groups. Last year, Jose Antonio Ortega, head of the non-governmental organization Citizen’s Council for Security and Criminal Justice, told InSight Crime that drug cartels consider the DF as the “crown jewel” in part because of its status as a political and economic power center. The high street prices for illicit drugs in Mexico City also provide a strong financial incentive for criminal gangs to operate there. 

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However, Mexico City’s political and economic importance is also what will likely prevent the capital from reaching sky-high levels of violence previously seen in other Mexican cities. As El Daily Post’s Alejandro Hope points out, a surge in violent crime in the capital would be a severe blow to the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has repeatedly touted the country’s improving security situation. Mexico City is also equipped with the country’s largest police force, and all the federal forces are headquartered in the capital. Under these circumstances, it is unlikely a full-blown security crisis will break out in the DF. 

It is also worth noting that despite the outbreak of violence, Mexico City remains relatively safe; the capital’s 2015 homicide rate is expected to rank below that of the national average. 

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