Mexico Prisoner Origins Insufficient Basis for Anti-Violence Program Placement

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Mexico’s Interior Ministry has identified the neighborhoods where most of the country’s criminals originate, a strategy aimed at determining where to allocate government anti-violence funding, but one that has some inherent flaws. 

In a document sent to Mexico’s Senate, the Interior Ministry identified 3,234 neighborhoods — concentrated in 95 of the country’s 2,440 municipalities — where the bulk of the country’s violence originates, reported Excelsior. The ministry obtained this information by determining where the greatest number of the country’s prisoners had come from.   

The neighborhoods highlighted in the report are located throughout the country (see Excelsior map), with the greatest number — 412 — in the Pacific coast state of Michoacan, followed by Chihuahua (229) and Jalisco (207). Other states with a large number of neighborhoods identified in the report include Oaxaca, Nuevo Leon, Veracruz and Guerrero.  

According to the Interior Ministry’s Assistant Secretary of Prevention and Citizen Participation Roberto Campa Cifrian, identifying these neighborhoods helps the government determine where to implement violence prevention programs. Campa said the ministry also considered factors including the number of single-parent households, school drop-out rates and crime statistics when deciding where to allocate these resources.

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InSight Crime Analysis

It is important for the Mexican government to have a database of socioeconomic indicators that help determine where to concentrate violence prevention initiatives. However, basing the locations of such programs on the current report could lead to the misallocation of resources. The report does not appear to distinguish between types of crime prisoners were found guilty of, meaning that some of the neighborhoods highlighted in the report could have high rates of drug use or other nonviolent crimes, but little presence of violent gangs or cartels. 

The idea that the report fails to tell the whole story appears to be supported by the fact that while some of the states highlighted in the report — such as Michoacan, Chihuahua, Guerrero and Nuevo Leon — are the sites of significant drug violence, others — like Oaxaca and Veracruz — are typically less associated with such violence. Veracruz has, however, seen a recent streak of violence

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For President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has attempted to make addressing organized crime violence through preventive programs a key element of his security strategy, it is an essential first step to choose the right indicators to target the most at-risk locations.  

Another problem this report, and others like it, bring up is that while they may help determine where to allocate resources, they can also have the perverse effect of stigmatizing certain areas as hot spots for the production of criminals and violence. 

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