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Hidden graves in El Salto Hidden graves in El Salto yielded 131 bodies yet there were only 49 homicides recorded during the year.

Guadalajara homicide numbers drop, but neglect to count bodies in hidden graves

Not including them in homicide statistics alters the perception of security

Murders in the metropolitan area of Guadalajara, Jalisco, declined 12% in 2020 but the statistics don’t include victims found in hidden graves and therefore paint only a limited picture of the security situation in Mexico’s second largest city.

There were 1,369 victims of homicide and femicide last year in the nine municipalities that form the metropolitan area of Guadalajara (ZMG), 184 fewer than 2019.

While any reduction in homicides is welcome, high levels of violence continue to plague Guadalajara, said Jorge Tejeda, a security expert at the city’s ITESO university. In an interview with the newspaper El Universal, he noted that bodies found in clandestine graves are not included in the murder statistics when they really should be.

“For the study of criminal incidence, which is used to design public policies against insecurity, these discoveries should be counted as homicides,” Tejeda said.

During 2019 and 2020, 406 bodies were found in hidden graves in the ZMG, according to state government data. The municipality of El Salto, located southeast of downtown Guadalajara, provides a stark example of how the perception of security in a particular area can be altered by not including those bodies in the official statistics.

According to the National Public Security System, there were only 49 homicides and femicides in El Salto last year. But in a period of just three months between October and December, state authorities recovered 131 bodies from a mass grave in the municipality, the largest ever found in Jalisco.

Guadalajara has long suffered from violent crime, and residents of the city were reminded this week that an outbreak of violence is liable to occur at any time. An attack on a building in Tlaquepaque claimed the lives of five people on Wednesday while a restaurant in an exclusive Zapopan neighborhood was the site of an armed confrontation between civilians on Monday that left one person dead, at least three injured, and one person kidnapped.

Security analyst Alejandro Hope said the recent armed attacks don’t constitute an “escalation of violence” because such incidents have long occurred in Guadalajara.

“It’s a pattern that’s been repeating for years, it’s not limited to the current government,” he said.

Tejeda said the response to the attacks in Tlaquepaque and Zapopan showed that there is a lack of coordination between the different authorities.

“With regard to the incident on Monday, it stands out that there was not an appropriate operational response, considering that [Zapopan] is among the municipalities in the country with the highest number of municipal police officers. In the area where [the incident] occurred there is a high concentration of police,” he said.

“During the escape – via very busy avenues – there was nobody who blocked [the aggressors’] way,” Tejeda said.

“Less than 500 meters from the place where this shootout occurred there are always Zapopan police officers and it’s relatively easy to stop traffic and keep track [of fleeing criminals] via the C5 [security] cameras.”

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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