Incorrect classification of homicides by state officials as well as underreporting of crimes are deliberately used to manipulate Mexico’s crime statistics, charges a non-governmental organization.
The practice, according to a report by the public policy think tank México Evalúa, may be a ploy by state governors to strengthen their public image as well as that of their parties, further their political careers and to vindicate, in the eyes of the public, their role in reducing violence.
The report, entitled “Every victim counts: towards a criminal information system,” follows similar studies in New York, England, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, and identifies procedural inaccuracies from the time a criminal complaint is lodged to when state governments collate the information into statistics. States in turn hand the statistics over to the National Public Security System (SNSP).
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the homicide rate provides one of the most complete and accurate ways to measure whether overall violence is increasing or decreasing.
But misinformation prevents both authorities and the general public from knowing the full extent of the phenomenon and leads to inadequate public policies to combat the problem.
According to the report, manipulation of statistics could start in any of three stages of the judicial process.
Firstly, those reporting the crime could be persuaded to not proceed, leading to underreporting of crimes committed.
Secondly, public servants could incorrectly classify a homicide as manslaughter, the error arising from lack of training, false statements or an order from above to manipulate the information.
Thirdly, when reports reach the statistics departments of state Attorney General’s offices, they may be reclassified due to new expert or forensic information, which comes to light after the initial complaint is filed. The modifications can subsequently be reported to the SNSP, which publishes crime statistics monthly.
According to México Evalúa, state authorities deliberately use these strategies to show a reduction in high-impact crimes such as homicide. The organization says “monthly information allows accurate detection of sudden changes in homicides as well as diagnosis of systematic relationships between homicide and manslaughter in the period.”
The report states, “From January 2008 (one year after the beginning of the drug war initiated by former president Felipe Calderón) there is a substantial and sustained increase in the rate of culpable homicides to a maximum of 1.86 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants reached in May 2011.”
“Subsequently, from the end of 2012 to the start of 2015 the rate substantially decreases, reaching a level of 1.05 homicides in February 2015. Finally, from March 2015 the rate increases again reaching 1.59 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in August 2016.”
“Red lights” that the organization detected for manipulation of statistics were in Quintana Roo, Tlaxcala, Tabasco, Michoacán, Jalisco, San Luis Potosí, Puebla, Durango, Colima, the State of Mexico, Veracruz, Nayarit and Coahuila. The last four states will hold elections for governor on June 4.
In 28% of the state administrations that were analyzed in the study, a correlation was found between the rise and fall of statistics for homicides and manslaughter between 1997 and 2016, although no such correlation should exist as the crimes are very different.
Overall, abnormal trends in the rates of homicide and manslaughter were detected in administrations of 19 of Mexico´s 32 federal entities.
In the case of Coahuila, three administrations were analyzed including that of current Governor Rubén Moreira. A reduction in the rate for homicide was detected starting in the period 2005 to 2011, suggesting a possible manipulation of statistics.
The State of México showed the same pattern, suggesting an artificial reduction of the statistics for homicide during the governments led by former governors Arturo Montiel and now-President Enrique Peña Nieto and current Governor Eruviel Ávila.
Similar patterns were detected during the governorships of Ney González and current Governor Roberto Sandoval in Nayarit and during the tenures of Miguel Alemán, Fidel Herrera and Javier Duarte in Veracruz.
A hypothesis that the trend would decline during pre-election periods proved false.
México Evalúa proposes the creation of a committee that audits and validates the veracity of crime statistics.
Jonathan Furzsyfer, the author of the report, said it would be a body similar to the Federal Auditor´s Office and “it could have institutional checks and balances to oversee and ensure that crime statistics are of a high quality.”
He added, “If there are no legal, juridical and institutional mechanisms to avoid these kind of practices, they will continue to repeat.”
Source: El Universal (sp)