The combined number of homicide cases in January and February made the first two months of 2019 the most violent first bimester of any year on record, official statistics show.
A total of 4,826 intentional homicide cases were reported in the two-month period, according to the National Public Security System (SNSP), an increase of 14% compared to January and February of last year when there were 4,234 cases.
Compared to the first two months of earlier years of the previous government’s six-year term, the increase is even greater: the number of homicides in January and February of 2019 is almost 30% higher than the same period of 2017, 65% higher than 2016 and 89% above the 2015 figure.
Last month, 2,374 cases were reported, a decline of just over 3% compared to the 2,452 cases recorded in the first month of the year, which was the most violent January on record.
However, the daily murder rate increased in February to just under 85 from 79 the month before.
Colima remained the most violent state in Mexico last month in per capita terms, recording 6.7 homicides per 100,000 residents.
Guanajuato, where security forces carried out an operation against the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel this month, was the second most violent, recording a per-capita homicide rate of 5.7.
With 5.3 homicides per 100,000 residents, Baja California was the third most violent state followed by Morelos, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Quintana Roo, Jalisco, Michoacán, Tabasco and Zacatecas.
The least violent state was Yucatán with just 0.2 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants followed by Baja California Sur, Campeche, Coahuila, Hidalgo, Aguascalientes, Tlaxcala, Querétaro, Durango and Nayarit, all of which recorded per-capita murder rates below one per 100,000.
In addition to homicide, the rates for a range of other crimes increased in the first two months of 2019 compared to the same period last year.
The number of femicides – women and girls killed on account of their gender – increased by 12% to 147 cases reported in January and February, kidnappings were up 80% to 270 cases and extortion rose by 58% to 1,414 cases.
The number of reported sexual abuse cases increased by 50% to 3,483 and probes into retail drug trafficking offenses went up by 15% to 11,114.
Statistics also show that in each of the three full months since President López Obrador took office – December, January and February – there have been higher numbers of intentional homicides, femicides and kidnappings than in November, the last month of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency.
Cases of extortion declined in December compared to November but in the past two months the incidence of the crime was higher than in the last month of the previous government.
Vehicle theft declined slightly in December compared to November before exceeding the rate recorded in Peña Nieto’s last month in office in January. Figures for the crime in February, however, were 13.5% lower than in November.
The stubbornly high rates of homicides, femicides and kidnappings underscore the monumental security challenge faced by López Obrador, who has pledged to “pacify” the country, and his fledgling administration.
The centerpiece of the government’s strategy to combat the high levels of crime is the creation of a national guard, which has now been approved by both houses of Congress and legislatures of all 32 states.
The new security force is expected to be made up initially of around 80,000 members but Public Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo has said that he hopes its size will swell to 150,000 by the end of the year as a result of intense recruitment.