Saturday, July 16, 2011

Factually Dubious Lede

Via Boz, from the AP:
The northern city of Monterrey, once Mexico's symbol of development and prosperity, is fast becoming a new Ciudad Juarez.
There is very little statistical basis for this comment. Juárez, a third of Monterrey's size, was home to more than 3,000 murders in 2010. (Closer to 4,000, according to Chihuahua authorities.) Nuevo León, home to Monterrey and 4.6 million residents, is on pace to register a murder rate of roughly 40 per 100,000 residents. (I've found no good metro area-level info for Monterrey, unfortunately, but the stats for the metro area, which holds almost 90 percent of the state's population, can be seen as roughly corresponding to the figures for the state.) That is a high number, especially considering the traditional rate of between 3 and 7 in Nuevo León. But it does not compare to Juárez, where according to that state data the murder rate was well above 300 in 2010. To her credit, the author acknowledges that, but in rather general terms and not until the 15th paragraph.

Here's another questionable assertion:
The scale of the killings has rarely been seen in Mexico outside border cities such Juarez, Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo, the main gateways for drugs passing into the United States that have seen dramatic surges of violence since President Felipe Calderon intensified Mexico's crackdown on organized crime in 2006.
That's also not backed up by the statistics. Acapulco, Chihuahua, Gómez Palacio, and Torreón, all of which are farther from the border than Monterrey, have higher recent murder rates than Monterrey. Furthermore, in 2010 the entire states of Guerrero, Sinaloa, and Durango, none of which are on the border, had murder rates of 66, 48, and 85, respectively.

I think the worry in Monterrey is the sense that if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere, including Mexico City (hence this editorial). But it is not yet anything like the nastiest spots in Mexico, statistically speaking, and I think the sense of panic that has characterized a lot of the recent reporting needs to be balanced with this fact.

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