Thursday, August 26, 2010

Drug Violence in Nayarit and Jalisco

Drug Violence in Nayarit and Jalisco
August 24, 2010.
Courtesy of

Yes there is some drug related violence in our little corner of paradise.

This article takes a look at the best data available to try to put it into perspective by comparing the rate to other countries and some U.S. cities. It focuses on our state of Nayarit and our closest neighbour Jalisco. Use the references at the bottom of the page to get information about your area of interest.

Drug related homicides in all of Mexico for 2009 were estimated at over 6,500. The estimate for the first half of 2010 approaches 6,000. A new report by the Justice in Mexico project at University of San Diego says, “…drug violence related deaths in 2010 are on track to exceed any previous year, perhaps even doubling the homicides of the last year.” Their data points out that the border states account for almost half of those killings (44% in the first half of 2010). Chihuahua topped the list with 27% and Yucatan and Tlaxcala garnered the enviable bottom of the list with 0%.

How do Nayarit and Jalisco compare to the rest of the country? Nayarit had 1.95% and Jalisco had 4% of the total drug related homicides in Mexico in the first half of 2010. Percentages are misleading because of the large population differences among the states. A more useful way to look at the data is as a percentage of the population. These numbers are usually talked about in terms of how many homicides per 100,000 inhabitants and that is the only number we will use from here on.

Drug related killings only:
The numbers point out just how regional the problem is and clearly indicate that the violence is well above last year’s levels. Mexico as a whole had 5.36 up from 3.08 homicides per 100,000 last year. Chihuahua stands at 43.9 up from 28.7 last year.

All forms of homicide:
The best way to compare different regions and countries is to use the data for all homicides, not just for drug related killings, because that data is not readily available for other areas. According to the UN office of drug and crime latest numbers (2008) and FBI Uniform Crime Reports statistics 2008:

Mexico had 11.6 homicides per 100,000; a bit less than San Francisco (12.3), Nashville (12.6), Milwaukee (11.8) and Bahamas (13.7). It is a lot less than Jamaica (59.5) and Belize (34.3) but a lot more than either the United States (5.2) or Canada (1.7).

View other country rankings here.

If we assume that the non-drug related murders are about 6.0 per 100,000 (i.e. 11.6 minus 5.36) then we can also compare Jalisco and Nayarit to various U.S. Cities and other countries. It is a bit problematic that we are combining 2009 data with 2008 data but it should still be a reasonable approximation.

Jalisco reports only 2.92 drug related murders per 100,000 so if we assume the national average of 6 for the other types of murders we get 9 per 100,000 which is comparable to the following U.S. cities Santa Ana, CA ( 8.8), Las Vegas (8.9) and Los Angeles (10.0) and countries like Barbados (8.7).

Nayarit was hit badly this year because of a number of gun battles and gang killings in Tepic. The drug related homicides went from 1.75 in 2009 to 11.24 per 100,000 in the first half of 2010. If we make the same assumptions as above then Nayarit’s rate of 17.24 per 100,000 places it in the same range as cities like Mobil (16.7), Chicago (18.0) and Atlanta (19.7) and less than countries like Puerto Rico (20.4). It is well below New Orleans (63.6) and Washington DC (31.4).

Under these same assumptions even Chihuahua is well below New Orleans and in the same range as St. Louis. Cuidad Juarez is probably well above New Orleans.

The data speaks for itself. When traveling we all need to be aware of our surroundings and take common sense precautions. However, Mexico appears to offer many reasonably safe destination when compared to the alternatives.

If anyone has more recent data than that quoted below we would greatly appreciate a reference to it in the comments section.

Data Sources:

Wikipedia: United States cities by crime rate

United Nations Office on Drug and Crime - eleventh UN-CTS 2007-2008

2010 Mid-Year Report on Drug Violence in Mexico By Angelica Duran-Martinez, Gayle Hazard, and Viridiana Rios at the Trans-Border Institute — Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies – University of San Diego