Monday, January 12, 2009

Crime: Good News in US, Bad News in Mexico

Good News: Crime is declining in the U.S., see chart above.

Bad News: Crime is increasing dramatically in Mexico, especially for murders related to drug trafficking (5,637), which more than doubled in 2008 from the previous year. To put Mexico's murders in perspective, consider that there have been "only" 4,224 American war causalities in Iraq during the almost six years since the war began in 2003 (see chart below). Becoming the "Murder Capital of the World" is the price Mexico is paying for the U.S. "war on drugs" (see WSJ journal article here).

Update: QT and Misterjosh object to the graph above comparing Mexican murders in 2008 to American deaths in Iraq since 2003, see the comments section of this post. Here's an alternative graph below to illustrate how serious the murder problem is in Mexico, showing the 117% increase in murders from 2007 (2,477) to 2008 (5,367).

There are certainly differences in population between Mexico (approx. 108m) and the U.S. (approx. 300m) that distort a comparison, and there is also a difference in time periods: one year for murders in Mexico (2008) vs. 5 years of American deaths in Iraq, but the point was to make a comparison to put 5,367 murders in some context (see CSM story here that makes the same comparison).

The graph below is another way to put 5,367 Mexican murders in a single year (2008) in context, by comparing it to the previous year. Not sure, but I would bet that the +117% increase might make Mexico #1 for 2008, in terms of the greatest percentage increase from 2007?

Thanks to James Hohman for the FBI link.


At 1/12/2009 11:23 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Interesting about the Mexico connection since felony crime, murder and drug pushing has been a, 'happening thing' for at least the last forty years...

The following story is from the Laredo Morning Times: Immigrant advocates decry new rules on courts, DNA

Immigrant rights advocates expressed outrage over two new rules going into effect in the waning days of the Bush administration, one affecting how immigrants are represented in deportation cases and another mandating DNA tests for detained immigrants. (there's more)

I can't help but wonder if the Obama administration will nullify these two laws and again we could see crime rates rising...

At 1/12/2009 12:14 PM, Blogger QT said...

Don't we also have to consider the Iraqi deathtoll as well as factor in the difference in population (ie. Mexico at 106 million vs. Iraq at 29 million per Wikipedia).

Alternatively, we could consider whether 5367 murders in a nation of 106 million is better or worse than 4,224 deaths among U.S. forces which peaked at 160,000 in Dec/05 (estimates put total # of soldiers who have served in Iraq at 1.5 million? If we put in per capita figures (ie. per 100,000), this works out to 50.63 per capita (100,000) for Mexico and 281.8 per capita for U.S. forces?

Crime statistics are routinely compared on a per capita basis (ie. per 100,000) rather than total #'s. By this measure, Mexico's murder rate stands at #5 in the world. One can also see how such data is
trending over time.

While the rising murder rate in Mexico is a very serious problem, Mexico is in no way comparable to a combat zone in terms of mortality.

Thank you for a wonderful example of fallacious argumentation used by both left & right: the use of total incidence numbers to compare completely disparate sample sizes.

At 1/12/2009 12:27 PM, Blogger QT said...

Made a mistake in my math. Actually, it works out to 5.06 per 100,000 for Mexico. Looks like it's even safer in Mexico than Iraq.

At 1/12/2009 1:26 PM, Blogger QT said...


Same article by Mary Anastassia O'Grady was posted back in Aug, 2008 although one notes that the death toll has been updated.

Perhaps, you could explain the value of what would appear to be a totally disproportionate comparison. It would appear to offer little information and risk trivializing the dangers faced by U.S. troops in Iraq.

The law of supply & demand would appear to make a far stronger basis for the legalization of drugs. Attempts to limit the supply of drugs serve only to raise the price of the commodity creating greater monetary rewards and incentives for drug traffikers without providing any consumer protection or legal recourse (to say nothing of the lost income tax revenue). The U.S. expends tremendous resources on enforcement with one of the highest incarceration rates in the world and still has not managed to win the war on drugs. Drug treatment would require a fraction of the resources expended on police and prisons.

Why use a weak argument when there are so many stronger ones available?

At 1/12/2009 1:49 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

However the data was presented, it still sucks that there are so many murders in Mexico. Add to that the fact that at least some of those murders can be attributed to the "War on Drugs" and additional suckage ensues.

Statistically, I'll say it's just inappropriate to compare intentional deaths of people whose profession is war with intentional deaths of the entire population of a country.

At 1/12/2009 2:24 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

QT and Misterjosh: Post has been updated.

At 1/12/2009 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Don't we also have to consider the Iraqi deathtoll as well as factor in the difference in population..."

It's amazing how well versed leftists are in every lie as it pertains to the war in Iraq. One simply has to throw out some claim that the U.S. is evil and behaving badly and they are right on board. No need for careful examination. Putting aside that most of these deaths were inflicted by the enemy and not by coalition forces, the lie just does not stand up:

"A STUDY that claimed 650,000 people were killed as a result of the invasion of Iraq was partly funded by the antiwar billionaire George Soros."

"New research published by The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 151,000 people - less than a quarter of The Lancet estimate - have died since the invasion in 2003."

"The 650,000 figure was regarded with skepticism when the study appeared because it was vastly higher than estimates by the US government (30,000) and the Iraqi government (50,000)."

"Even an antiwar activist group, Iraq Body Count, claimed 45,000 dead, a fraction of the Lancet figure."

"The statistics made headlines all over the world when they were published in The Lancet in October last year. More than 650,000 Iraqis – one in 40 of the population – had died as a result of the American-led invasion in 2003. The vast majority of these “excess” deaths (deaths over and above what would have been expected in the absence of the occupation) were violent. The victims, both civilians and combatants, had fallen prey to air strikes, car bombs and gunfire."

"Body counts in conflict zones are assumed to be ballpark – hospitals, record offices and mortuaries rarely operate smoothly in war – but this was ten times any other estimate. Iraq Body Count, an antiwar web-based charity that monitors news sources, put the civilian death toll for the same period at just under 50,000, broadly similar to that estimated by the United Nations Development Agency."

Let's not forget that the same leftists wringing their hands over the deaths Iraqi's have incurred during the liberation were charging, before the war, that 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqi children were dying each year as a result of the U.N. sanctions. ( It's likely another leftist lie but let's take them at their word since you seem inclined to do so when condemning the U.S.. Any honest accounting of the cost in lives would have to take the end of those sanctions into account. Using their own arguments, and factoring in the thousands of Iraqi's that have escaped death at the hands of Saddam's henchmen since he was deposed, we find that tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Iraqi lives have been saved as a result of the invasion and liberation.

At 1/12/2009 3:41 PM, Blogger QT said...


Thank you for updating the chart. Comparison with 2007 provides a far more relevant context.

Mexico is unlikely to leap to number 1 in the world on the basis of these numbers horrific as they are. 2008 figures from Venezuela put the murder rate at 48 per 100,000. On the basis of an estimated population of 108 million, the murder rate per 100,000 in MX works out to only 4.88. In other words, it would have to be more than 9 times higher to match Venezuela.

At 1/12/2009 4:03 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

QT: I was talking about Mexico possibly being the country with the HIGHEST PERCENT INCREASE from 2007 to 2008 at +117%. Although some countries like Venezuela might be higher than Mexico on a per capita basis, I'm not sure that very many countries experienced a doubling of murders (or murder rate) in just one year, like Mexico?

At 1/12/2009 4:31 PM, Blogger QT said...


Don't assume that everyone who mentions the Iraq death toll is a leftist.

Death toll obviously includes enemy combatants and civilians targetted by terrorists. The point I was making was that comparing murders in Mexico with 3.7 times the population of Iraq without considering the difference in population or presenting the total number of deaths involved rather than presenting per capita comparisions is an attempt to politicize rather than inform.

It would be no more honest to compare total murders in the U.S. to total murders in MX ie. over 15,000 in the year 2000 and conclude that the U.S. was 3 x as violent as Mexico. To exclude the fact that the U.S. has 3 times the population of MX materially alters our perception of the information presented.

The comparison is intended to appeal to the emotions. ie. If you're upset about the # of U.S. soldiers killed...imagine how you would feel if the same number of people were dying in the streets of your neighbourhoods.

With regard to Iraq death toll, the Lancet study (albeit not by the media who latch onto the soundbyte and look beyond the end of their noses) was criticized for its flawed methodolgy which was based upon a minimal number of sample points mostly concentrated in areas of heavy fighting which were used to extrapolate death tolls to the country as a whole.

The discrepancy between estimated death numbers in the Lancet study and actual death tolls from the Iraq government and UN completely undercuts the credibility of this study.

Not everyone blames the U.S. for the war in Iraq. If Saddam and friends had allowed UN weapons inspectors to freely interview Iraqi scientists and go whereever they liked, the U.S. would never have gone to Iraq. Playing to the Arab street was the ultimate losing game for Saddam just as it was for Nassar.

At 1/12/2009 5:38 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Hmmm, well QT, the idea that you would use anything from a wiki or even if you laid your hands on the alledgedly official murder stats from Mexico's Justice Department, its all the samething, not credible...

Let me give you a for instance...

During this past Thanksgiving I was down home in Laredo and that Saturday night there were 13 murders over in Nuevo Laredo...

The Mexican Justice Department has yet to verify those homicides even though two of the local papers had articles with photos of all 13 dead men... (yeah, they still do that in Mexico)...

I could easily see that only one murder in four actually sees the light of day as far as criminal statistic go when dealing with the Mexican Justice Department...

Its been that way ever since I was a kid in the early sixties...

At 1/12/2009 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think most everyone understood the point you made so very well about stats, QT, and realize your goal wasn't to dis our home team in Iraq.

If left unchecked, many warn, Mexico's major gangsta problem will soon spread across the border and be our problem.

At 1/12/2009 6:55 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"If left unchecked, many warn, Mexico's major gangsta problem will soon spread across the border and be our problem"...

Well they will be late to the game...

Have you heard of MS 13?

At 1/12/2009 7:27 PM, Blogger QT said...


Wiki is a quick & dirty reference tool. I figure population stats are not that difficult for even Wiki to get right.

I could easily see that only one murder in four actually sees the light of day as far as criminal statistic go when dealing with the Mexican Justice Department.

Usually, you provide something credible to back up your positions. Faulting Wiki for credibility while asserting pure opinion without a shred of documentation....credibility gap there, buckeroo.

At 1/12/2009 7:41 PM, Blogger QT said...

And collaboration between the US and Mexico is at an all-time high.
Suspects have been extradited to the US at a record pace this year, and the US just formally released $197 million of a $400 million aid package of equipment and training to Mexican authorities combating drug violence.

People respond to incentives. U.S. foreign aid is contingent upon the present approach in Mexico which is
1. doubling the murder rate
2. likely to result in electoral loses which will weaken Calderone, the country's best chance for governmental and institutional reforms that would improve the economy of the country making illegal immigration less prevalent
3. a return to a leftist politics a la Chavez is hardly progress either for Mexico, central America or the U.S.

Present drug policy is not working which even law enforcement professionals recognize. Isn't it time to separate morality from public policy?

At 1/12/2009 10:58 PM, Blogger Justin Wehr said...

We desperately needs some sort of interactive map that shows the number of unnatural deaths per capita around the world. It is so easy to lose perspective when all we hear about in the news is a couple of areas. I honestly don't know what area of the world is in most need of attention right now, and this is a fundamental question that everyone should know the answer to.

At 1/13/2009 11:45 AM, Blogger QT said...


It is not possible to know every concern of humanity/planet (although you have suggested a good idea for a Most of us choose instead a variety of strategies:

1. Decide upon the issues that are most important to you on the basis of your personal values(ie. health care, education, tropical disease transmission, environmental protection, etc.) and develop your own action plan. ie. one could donate to an organization like Doctors without Borders or identify volunteer opportunities (ie. driving cancer patients or fundraising for a CT scanner for a local hospital) or find organizations that can use your professional skills (ie. Habitat for Humanity or Engineers without Borders).

2. Educate yourself about real issues. One of the legacies of the 1960's has been the use of fear to try to galvanize public opinion creating a cascade (see cascade theory). Many doom & gloom predictions (ie. running out of oil, the Club of Rome's limits to growth) are routinely hyped and never seem to materialize. Some things like worrying about the safety of fluoridation of water are total bunk. The following help to discern the real issues from the overblown rhetoric/misinformation:

Spin Free Economics
The Best of Peter Drucker
The Man Who Fed Millions

3. Accept that you are a good person and you don't need to wear sack cloth & ashes to prove it. It is not selfish to make positive life choices, set career goals or take time to renew yourself. Those who fail to provide proper self-care often end up suffering burn-out, depression and illness.

4. Realize your limitations. You cannot fix every problem in the world. You can make positive contributions to your community and to your family. One cannot fix all problems making it important to decide upon what you will do based upon your interests and abilities. ie. Norman Borlaug worked to pioneer new varieties of disease resistant wheat.

5. Leverage your contributions by working with others ie. joining a group. Many hands make light work. Learn to delegate, and accept that there are many ways of meeting the same goal. Be flexible.

6. Sometimes one can try to fix problems even when people have not asked. The result is that we are often perceived as interfering or misguided.

Your comments have touched a memory of how I felt when I was in my twenties. Just some thoughts.

It is difficult to let go of the habit of trying to fix people's problems. As you can see, I am trying to fix your problem and sooth your anxiety even though you are fully capable of doing so yourself. This habit can really get up people's noses.

At 1/13/2009 2:34 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Usually, you provide something credible to back up your positions. Faulting Wiki for credibility while asserting pure opinion without a shred of documentation....credibility gap there, buckeroo"...

Hmmm, should I enter my personal experiences (40+ years of it) into wiki QT?

Just a rhetorical question QT and I'm not trying to 'dis' you either...

See QT you've laid your finger on the nub of the problem, just how valid is the data?

Let me ask you something QT, how much have you heard about the ongoing industry down in Mexico and on the American-Mexican border of, 'kidnapping & ransoming'?

I live in Missouri now (and have since '80) and I rarely hear about it...

When I go home to Laredo its the talk of the town...

The 'kidnapping & ransoming' game happens at least weekly down in Nuevo Laredo and Laredo but very few people relatively speaking outside of the border areas know much if anything about it...

How does one quantify that sort of industry and come up with usuable data?

At 1/13/2009 4:43 PM, Blogger QT said...


I am very much aware of the kidnapping and ransoming going on in the border area. Have to agree with you that the national news media generally gives very little coverage to border crime. The same can be said for international coverage which is usually limited.

Ted Koppel once mentioned that even ABC nightline limited the number of international stories because viewer ratings would drop if there were more than 2 international pieces. BBC and PBS offer more comprehensive coverage although one has to be mindful of bias in all media. Local papers usually offer the best coverage.

For crime statistics, there are national organizations as well as international agencies who compile these statistics. There are often differences in definitions from country to country ie. poverty has no consistent internationally definition.

I agree that Mexico's border areas have a major problem with murder, kidnapping, & drug smuggling. I do not question that you are very familiar with the pervasiveness of these crimes.

What I am questioning is your assertion that Mexico does not properly compile crime statistics. While Mexican authorities don't do a very good job on solving crimes, I fail to understand why recording the # of incidences would present a problem.

An awareness of the pervasiveness of crime in the border area does not provide you with adequate information to comment upon statisitical tracking of crime within Mexico. From the data we have on the # of murders showing a doubling of incidents in 1 year, there seems to be little to support the idea that Mexican authorities are undercounting or trying to hide these very alarming numbers. It is very clear that Mexico's crackdown on drug trafficking has very real consequences.

The U.S. is the largest market for illegal drugs in the world. By trying to stop illegal drugs, we reduce supply and raise prices making the rewards more profitable. This is an industry which pays no taxes, bears no responsibility for either the quality of their product or any adverse health consequences associated with their product.

Consider the huge social burden of addiction, and incarceration for which this industry gets a free pass-go. Consider the faces of Crystal meth. When do we take the profit out of the industry and subject it to taxation, regulation, litigation, double entry bookkeeping and all the other things joys that civilization has to offer.

Imagine the amount of public resources spent on drug enforcement applied to health care, education or the environment.

At 1/15/2009 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several days ago the NSC or somesuch agency listed two countries most likely to collapse--Pakistan and Mexico. Either would be big problem for US. If Mex go crazy (-er), the flood across the border will be massive. The "political" risk, esp for real estate, in the Southwest is immense in my estimation.

At 1/15/2009 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the private intelligence site, Stratfor, has followed the decline in Mexico for several years now. Here's a snippet from the latest:
(the link may be gated

"Mexican Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez Mont on Wednesday criticized a recent U.S. Joint Forces Command report that warns of the potential for the Mexican state to collapse and says a devolution of control in Mexico would require U.S. intervention. Gomez Mont’s statement, along with growing concern throughout the United States over the stability of Mexico, is yet another reminder of the challenges facing the Mexican government -— and the incoming presidential administration of Barack Obama.

As violence in Mexico soars to record levels —- more than 5,700 people died in organized crime-related violence in 2008 — the U.S. government has gradually begun to note the severity of the situation. Though Washington certainly has been waiting for the transition to a new administration, there has been a shift in the way Mexico is being discussed in policy circles -– as seen with the Joint Operating Environment 2008 report. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and National Security Council have all, in one way or another, expressed similar concerns that Mexico might collapse under the strain of the drug cartel violence, or that there could be significant spillover of violence into the United States....."

At 2/08/2009 4:47 PM, Blogger Hugo Juarez said...

I don't see your co-relation between casualties in Iraq and murders in Mexico.
Good news is that out of these 5,367 most of them were drug dealers executed within the cartels. Bad news is that the "war on terror" is far from being completed.

I think there are other reasons why violent crime has decreased in America.

NOTE: No offense to the great people that defend this country and sacrifice their lives overseas. Much respect.


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