A new survey documents the effect crime is having on the way citizens in Mexico go about their daily lives even as public officials seek to downplay insecurity levels.
A survey of citizens by Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies research center (Centro de Estudios Sociales y de Opinión Pública – CESOP) found 58 percent of respondents feel insecure where they live, and that 68 percent believe they may become the victim of a crime.
In comparison to last year, 41 percent of those interviewed believe security in Mexico has decreased, while 26 percent think it has improved.
A total of 65 percent reported having adopted methods to protect themselves from public insecurity over the last year. This included: avoiding ATMs (42 percent); hiding personal belongings on public transport (37 percent); and, being careful about sharing information on social media and the Internet (35 percent).
The crime reported as most common where respondents live was theft (60 percent), followed by drug trafficking (15 percent). Kidnapping and extortion both came in at just under 5 percent.
Overall, 97 percent of respondents believe there is a lot of crime in the country. They identified the principal cause of crime as unemployment (34 percent), followed by lack of education (21 percent), lack of policing (14 percent), drug consumption (11 percent), and poverty and marginalization (10 percent).
While 62 percent reported having been or knowing someone who has been the victim of a crime, 68 percent said they had never filed a criminal complaint with the authorities. The top reason given for not doing so was fear of reprisal (18 percent).
Moreover, 49 percent believe public authorities are involved in criminal activity. The army, with 41 percent, was the security institution respondents said they trusted most, while less than 4 percent felt the same about either municipal or state police.
InSight Crime Analysis
Violence in Mexico has been on the increase in 2016, with homicides rising at an alarming rate — since January, the daily murder rate has grown by over 10 percent. If the trend continues, Mexico may be on track for its most violent year since 2012.
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As violence rises, government officials, including Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, have called on the media to be conscientious of the images used when reporting on violence, lest they incite more violence. Moreover, Osorio Chong has refuted claims Mexico is approaching 2012 violence levels, assuring that homicide data demonstrates a downward trend.
In recent years public perceptions of insecurity in Mexico have infrequently corresponded to actual data, not uncommonly increasing even as violence levels decrease. However, while Osorio Chong may be correct to imply the media plays a role in fueling distorted perceptions of insecurity, many citizens’ views are based on the tangible day-to-day experiences they are living. As such, significant improvements in citizen perceptions are unlikely to occur until Mexico is able to drastically improve and maintain security gains over a sustained period.