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News > Latin America

Are Mexican States Lying About Crime and Homicide Rates?

  • A cemetery in Durango, Mexico

    A cemetery in Durango, Mexico | Photo: AFP

Published 19 April 2017

Nine Mexican states were flagged for behavior that could suggest statistical manipulation. 

As Mexico continues to experience high levels of violence, a report from a Mexico-based think tank has detailed some of the gaps in how the state collects crime statistics, suggesting they are often manipulated.

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As part of Mexico Evalua’s “Every Victim Counts” report, the Mexican state was found to have a number of poor processes throughout its reporting of crimes, particularly for murder. The problems stemmed from how complaints are filed, classified and counted in official databases and reported to the public by the National Public Security System.

Statistics can be manipulated at various stages of the process, such as when officials attempt to prevent a complaint from being filed. Complaints can also end up being wrongly sent into statistic databases which then go on to being included in official reports.

Crimes that are reported and pass on to the next stage in the system can also become skewed when a crime is wrongly classified at the discretion of an official. By analyzing crime statistics in the country from 1997 to 2016, the report described a number of abnormal trends over the classification of intentional and unintentional homicides.

The report noted that such behavior was seen in nine states around the country: Mexico Federal District, Nayarit, Coahuila, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tlaxcala, Tabasco, Veracruz and San Luis Potosi.

Mexico Evalua said that not all the manipulations were necessarily deliberate and in many cases came down to authorities receiving false statements or suffering from poor staff training.

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Nevertheless, the problem stops authorities and policy makers from fully understanding the reality behind the country’s crimes and Mexico Evalua has recommended that Mexico implement a system of audits over its criminal data.

Mexico is currently known as the deadliest country in the Western Hemisphere for media workers and has been plagued by disappearances, violence stemming from an ongoing drug war, gender-based violence and high levels of impunity.

According to the National Human Rights Commission, the number of disappeared people in Mexico rose from 26,000 in 2013 to 30,000 at the end of 2016, while over the past decade 100,000 people have died in drug-related violence and 855 mass graves have been uncovered across the country.

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