A Plan to Halt Mexico’s Murder Crisis

Campaign Invites Bottom-Up Participation, Metrics to Allocate Law-Enforcement Resources

The Mexican government added over US$78 million for the strengthening and training of the police force in 2017. (Gerald Lau)

The murder rate spiked in Mexico in May 2017, one of the deadliest and most populated countries in Latin America, after an already alarming average of 64 homicides per day occurred in 2016. Now a coalition of independent domestic and foreign organizations want a Mexico without Homicides, and they are working on an extensive campaign centered in Mexico City.

The rate of 20 homicides per 100,000 people in Mexico is below the rates of her southern neighbors, such as the 90 per 100,000 residents in Honduras. However, that is saying little, since the Northern Triangle — El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras — is the most murderous region of the world.

Further, the first half of 2017 saw the highest murder rate for Mexico in the last two decades, and last year 23,000 murders occurred in Mexico, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Only Syria surpassed that total, with 50,000 murder victims in the armed conflict.

On May 3, 2017, Mexico without Homicides introduced and began their campaign in Mexico City. The project is a branch of the already existing Latin American alliance called Instinto de Vida (life instinct), which aims to reduce fatal violence in the region by half within a 10-year period.

Edna Jaime, founder and CEO of the NGO México Evalúa, initiated the campaign, and she has two chief objectives: (1) for Mexicans to wake up and realize the amount of violence they’re living with is not normal, and that indifference is not an option, and (2) to reduce violence through a sustainable public policy that includes effective strategies.

To raise awareness, she’s promoting a digital mobilization called Minuto de Silencio (minute of silence). She asks people to record themselves for a minute without saying a word and share it on social media writing #MinutoDeSilencio and #MXSinHomicidios, to remember the 23,000 mortal victims of 2016. In an interview she quoted a colleague who describes the digital initiative as “a pause dedicated to life.”

She and her colleagues are also promoting the use of those hashtags for Mexicans to express their discomfort and disapproval regarding criminal cases and impunity, and to demand that their authorities get to work and incorporate different actions to reverse the problem.

“#InstinctofLife. We need not only metrics of violence, but a state capable of building a #MexicoWithoutHomicides.”

In regard to the second goal, the organizations have sought out evidence of success from abroad, and they place a special emphasis on the need to “improve the quality of information regarding homicides.” They believe that without adequate information, identifying priority populations is very difficult. Consequently, the information vacuum prevents them from focusing and executing effective interventions.

During the launching event, they added concerns about the difficulty of relying on official records regarding the count of violent homicides in Mexico. The official data-collection system does not meet their minimum standards, and there is an alarming lack of trust in the country’s public institutions. Resolving the lack of accuracy and honesty, therefore, is the first step.

Some other recommendations from participants in the project are to build accountability and transparency in public institutions, disarm civilians, and create public policies that enable successful criminal prosecution in high-impact cases. Effectiveness would improve, they contend, with specialized crime-investigation units that can provide clear evidence to prosecutors.

They also highlight the need for their police force to have available geo-referenced information and criminal-analysis tools that facilitate the identification of critical, at-risk areas. This would enable officials to prioritize assistance and prepare better for each operation.

The program also includes preventative actions, such as rehabilitation programs for minors in conflict with the law for release into society; the use of cognitive-behavioral therapies that have shown evidence of reversing cycles of violence; as well as assertive and effective sanctions when addressing domestic violence.

Mexico without Homicides centers on promoting the balance between prevention and control, and enabling and encouraging significant citizen participation. They believe the locals’ perspective and feedback to be a fundamental part of the process, to be sure they are solving problems and not creating new ones.


Karen Muñoz contributed to this article.

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