The Crime Rate of the Century

The crime rate of the century Because Mexican crime statistics arenotoriously hard to come by, law professor Raphael Ruiz has taken it upon himself to become a one-man depository of Mexico City crime information. So Ruiz's word is to be taken seriously when he predicts that Mexico City--rocked by political and economic crisis--is headed for the worst annual increase in crime recorded anywhere this century. Based on increases in crime reported over the last several months, he warns that the city could easily see a 47 percent jump in the crime rate this year--a number that would be double the crimes per capita recorded as recently as 1990. Month to month, the city's crime rate grew steadily in 1994, but since last November the figures have outpaced even Ruiz's predictions. Although the government does collect rudimentary crime data, such statistics are spread haphazardly throughout several agencies,making comparative studies difficult. So Ruiz, who has been studying the capital's crime for the last 20 years at the National Autonomous University, has spent two years logging city crime data dating to 1930 into his computer. He may be the only person anywhere with such a database. Ruiz notes that great leaps in crime rates have typically accompanied periods of extreme political upheaval, where traditional mechanisms of social control have unraveled. He has found only three instances in the past century where an increase in the crime rate of 30 percent or more from one year to the next has been recorded: Tokyo following the end of World War II; Denmark after Nazi occupiers killed off most of its police force; and Spain following the death of dictator Francisco Franco. "When the social fabric falls apart, we see the decomposition of a society," Ruiz says. "What we're seeing [here in Mexico] is ... the pulverization of a society." Years of economic hardship--intensified by last January's peso devaluation crisis--are taking a grim toll on the world's largest urban center. Ruiz's statistics show a generally declining crime rate in Mexico City from 1930 through the 1970s. But beginning about 1980--with the advent of Mexico's debt crisis and the infamous "lost decade" of economic collapse--crime figures show a steep and uninterrupted increase. While Ruiz admits that crime rates are influenced by other factors, such as the increase of single-parent families and poor educational standards, one fact is clear: rising crime has accompanied Mexico's adoption of neoliberal economic policies. "The crisis that began in 1982 forced the government to take a series of measures that without a doubt left people impoverished," he says. Moreover, he points out, the string of economic crises has sapped the government's ability and willingness to fund a wide range of social programs. "Now," Ruiz concludes, "there's no feeling of responsibility toward the people." Ê

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.