From January through April, 2019, there were 35 homicides in San Miguel de Allende (11 in April, 9 in March, 7 in February, and 7 in January.). That is a huge spike in murder for this small town of about 160,000. Homicide data is important because it can be used as a proxy for underreported crimes.
Rape is very underreported in all countries, and so is kidnapping because people are afraid to risk the lives of their loved ones by reporting it, especially in countries where the police are corrupt and may even be in on it. In many countries, people don´t report robberies because it is a waste of time since nothing is ever done. Reporting or refusing to pay extortion can get you killed. When the rule of law is weak, data sources like the courts or government are completely unreliable, so homicide data is tracked because it is positively correlated with other crimes associated with lawlessness.
Even more disconcerting: San Miguel is hemmed in by a circle of cities where the murder rates are off the charts. In 2018, Celaya, a city of 470,000 about 40 minutes from San Miguel, recorded 240 homicides. Irapauto, about the same size and an hour away, recorded a whopping 473 murders last year. The state of Guanajuato, where San Miguel is located, leads all other states in Mexico in homicides. From January through March, there were 947 homicides in Guanajuato.
To put this into perspective, the population of the state of Guanajuato is roughly 5.8 million, almost exactly halfway between NYC at 8.6 million and LA at 2.7 million in size. Homicide rates are compared by murders per 100,000. At the current level, the homicide rate in 2019 for Guanajuato will be about 65.3 per 100,000. The homicide rate in NYC is 3.4. LA is 7.0. (Detroit, New Orleans, and Chicago are higher at 39.8, 39.5, and 24.1 respectively.)
I often hear people say that it´s just cartel members killing each other. Not true. Innocent people are getting killed. One of the gentlemen killed in SMA was washing his car next to a hit. The hitman took him out because he saw his face. Last week in Celaya, a judge was killed when gang members stormed the police station. Gringos are not immune, especially for underreported crimes like robbery and kidnapping.
Sweeping things under the rug is part of the problem in Mexico. Why the reluctance to report what is happening? Because it would drive away tourists. An independent study estimated that the Mexican government is underreporting homicide rates by 20%. There is a lot of pressure not to say anything. Reliable information is difficult to find and when citizens complain, officials say they are exaggerating.
However, the numbers are making it harder for the government to do nothing.
Numbers are important. Hats off to organizations like More Security in San Miguel and San Miguel Noticias Con Valor, where brave Mexicans use their phones as weapons to report and track crimes.
I have decided to leave Mexico. I do not know whether my next base will be the States or Europe. If it were not for the crime, I would stay here forever. Mexico, you are breaking my heart.