mexican police There are more of them, but how good are they?

New security spending not delivering gains

Between 2008 and 2015, the government spent 61% more on security

Reprinted from InSight Crime

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A recent report by a think tank in Mexico underscores that increased security spending has done little to temper escalating rates of violence in the country, suggesting that the government’s allocation of the resources — rather than the overall amount — may be the problem.

The July study released by the Ethos Public Policy Lab (Ethos Laboratorio de Políticas Públicas), a Mexico-based research institute, finds that in spite of the government’s 61% increase in internal security spending from 2008 to 2015, Mexico remains one of the most violent countries in the world, with 15 registered homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

According to the report, the Mexican government invested 209 billion pesos (US $11.7 billion) in overall security in 2015. National security amounted to 40% of the sector’s expenditures, while justice and internal security comprised 39 and 21% of total security spending, respectively.

Nonetheless, the report found that Mexico’s resource allocation “has served to form a police force with sufficient personnel . . . but with limited capacities for investigation and prevention.”

The study estimates that the number of Mexican police has expanded by 275% between 2006 and 2015. As of 2013, Mexico had 367 police per 100,000 inhabitants, more than the United States, Brazil and Honduras, according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

However, only four judges exist per 100,000 inhabitants in Mexico, a rate lower than that of El Salvador, Chile and Colombia.

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The report also emphasizes that official figures vastly underestimate Mexico’s rates of homicide, robbery and kidnapping. Only one in 10 of these crimes is registered by Mexican authorities — one of the lowest rates on the continent — which the study attributes to prevailing impunity and victims’ lack of trust in the judiciary.

InSight Crime Analysis

While high rates of violence and impunity are longstanding problems in Mexico, the report suggests that improving security may be a matter of better resource allocation.

For instance, Mexico has vastly expanded its police force, but estimates suggest that as many as one in 10 officers nationwide failed to meet vetting standards. Moreover, a July 2017 study from the National Statistics and Geography Institute indicated that the country’s police forces were least concentrated in regions most susceptible to violence and crime.

In addition, Mexico has prioritized a heavy-handed, militarized approach to combating crime and violence that has failed to yield sustainable progress on overall security after more than a decade in place.

This strategy, which lacks sufficient emphasis on preventative efforts, was unlikely to succeed in the long term, no matter how many resources the government spent on it.

Caroline Kuritzkes writes for InSight Crime, a foundation dedicated to the study of organized crime, which it describes as the principal threat to national and citizen security in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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