99% of kidnappings in Mexico went unreported last year

In Mexico, posters like these don’t get very far.
In Mexico, posters like these don’t get very far.
Image: Reuters/Tomas Bravo
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Few crime statistics are as sobering as the ones coming out of Mexico these days.

The latest public security report, (pdf, Spanish link) released by Mexico’s statistics bureau (INEGI) earlier this week, reveals the extent of the country’s rampant and virtually unpunished kidnapping problem. According to the report (p.21), a mind-boggling 105,682 kidnappings were committed in Mexico last year, of which an incredibly small 1,317 were reported to local or federal authorities. In other words, 99% of kidnappings in Mexico flew under the radar last year.

Many kidnappings are drug-related, and therefore often kept from authorities because victims involved in the drug trade want to avoid backlash or crackdowns on other offenses. But a good deal of the 100,000+ abductions went unreported on suspicion that nothing would be done, or worse, that more harm would come to the involved parties, according to local digital news site Animal Politico (link in Spanish). A survey taken by INEGI and included in the statistics bureau’s report found that millions of crime victims simply considered reporting crimes “a waste of time.”

Mexico’s local police are famously negligent when it comes to identifying, pursuing and reporting crimes. A study in 2011 (link in Spanish) found that Mexican police investigated a mere 4.5% of crimes. Even when detained, criminals are rarely convicted because of the country’s broken justice system—one which the US has been trying (and failing) to help Mexico with for years. Only 31% of those arrested on drug charges between 2006 and 2011 were actually convicted, according to a report (link in Spanish) released by Mexico’s attorney general’s office last year.

Mexico’s government is equally ineffective with murders, disappearances and other serious crimes. Less than 20% of roughly 4,000 disappearances in 2012 were reported, and 98% of murders last year went unsolved. The federal government only investigated 6% of all crimes in Mexico last year.

Understandably, Mexicans tend to look behind their back in public places. Take a look at this chart:

Image for article titled 99% of kidnappings in Mexico went unreported last year

Thanks to fallout from the government’s continued crackdown on the illegal drug trade, the country’s crime rate—the number of crimes committed per 100 heads—is above 34, a near historic high. According to local security and justice watchdog the National Citizen’s Observatory, Mexico’s crime problem is at its worst since at least 1997. No wonder Mexicans are more concerned with security (p. 12) than they are with unemployment, inflation, corruption or even health.