Rivas: not optimistic that the kidnapping situation will improve. Rivas: not optimistic that the kidnapping situation will improve.

Kidnapping numbers are set to break record

Citizens' group doesn't see the situation improving without a change in strategy

Kidnappings will break a record if they continue at their current pace, which a citizens’ group warns is unlikely to change.

The number of kidnappings recorded during the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto is on the brink of exceeding a previous high set during the entire six-year term of his predecessor, Felipe Calderón, according to statistics from the National Public Security System (SNSP).

In the four years and 10 months since Peña Nieto took office, there have been 6,235 kidnappings, just 347 fewer than the number recorded between 2006 and 2012 when Mexico was governed by a Calderón-led National Action Party (PAN) administration.

With one year of the current administration still to go and kidnapping rates on the rise, it is likely to be just a matter of months until the record is broken. After the same period in Calderón’s presidency, there had been 4,955 reported cases of kidnapping, 1,280 fewer than the number recorded so far.

The director of the National Citizens’ Observatory — an independent organization that monitors security conditions — believes that the high prevalence of the crime is likely to continue in the short term despite efforts by state-based anti-kidnapping units to reverse the trend.

“I think that we are going to continue having a serious problem in this area in the remainder of this six-year term because we haven’t seen a change in the security strategy that would lead us to believe we are going to have greater control over the issue,” Francisco Rivas said.

The worst year of the last five was 2013, the first full year of Peña Nieto’s presidency, Rivas said, but he warned that if the current trend continues unabated there is a danger of returning to those levels.

Part of the problem is that authorities are not attacking the financial structures of kidnapping rings, he said, which allows them to continue operating even if one of their members is arrested.

In response to the alarming figures recorded in 2013, Peña Nieto created the National Anti-Kidnapping Coordinator (Conase), an agency that deployed specialized units in 10 states to combat the crime. For two consecutive years kidnapping numbers dropped but the rate rose again in 2016, when 1,131 cases were recorded.

For the entire period of Peña Nieto’s presidency, Tamaulipas has recorded the highest number of kidnappings with 965 followed by the state of México (928), Veracruz (628), Guerrero (524), Tabasco (432), Morelos (372), Michoacán (358) and Mexico City (259), according to SNSP statistics.

But as is often the case, the government’s numbers have been questioned.

The organization Alto al Secuestro (Stop the Kidnappings) disagrees with the official figures, placing the number since 2013 at a much higher 10,242, or the equivalent of six new kidnapping cases per day.

Organization president Miranda de Wallace says that state governments have failed to combat the crime due to a lack of investment to train members of the anti-kidnapping units.

“If we continue with this trend, we’ll be finishing 2018 with maybe 12,000 kidnappings,” she said, adding that the federal government needs to place greater emphasis on combating the crime in the states where the incidence is highest.

“If we place emphasis on these states, this crime would reduce by practically 20% because almost 80% [of the cases] occur . . .  [there],” she claimed.

The federal government spent almost 2.3 billion pesos (US $122 million) this year to combat the crime, according to Conase, with the states of Puebla, México, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Querétaro and Mexico City the biggest beneficiaries.

The current year is likely to go down as Mexico’s most violent on record with homicide rates also at record highs. Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong said last week that reforming an outdated security system is essential to address rising crune levels.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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