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Fear of Crime in Mexico: The Impacts of Municipality Characteristics

Abstract

In the last decade, Mexico, the second largest economy in Latin America, has seen high poverty, inequality, and increasing homicide rates, which has led to widespread fear of crime. Two important challenges to understand the elevated levels of fear of crime are the lack of agreement on how to measure it and the debate on whether it responds to actual crime or to a general feeling of vulnerability associated with poverty. Moreover there is little research in Mexico examining the complex influence of social context at the municipality level, on the relationship between person-level characteristics and fear of crime. Using Mexico’s 2015 National Survey of Victimization the goal of the study is to estimate a two-level hierarchical regression analysis combining the effects of person-level predictors and municipality level context variables to explain fear of crime in Mexico´s urban population. Our results show that some person level attributes—victimization, incivilities, trust, police effectiveness, and collective organization—are consistently associated with the three domains of fear of crime: feelings of insecurity, perceptions of risk, and avoidance behaviors. The study shows that homicide rates at the municipality level are directly associated with feelings of insecurity and avoidance behaviors. In addition, high multidimensional poverty and inequality at the municipality level amplified the rate by which incivilities affect perceptions of risk. Unexpectedly, collective efficacy at the municipality level and collective organization to solve crime at the individual level were positive and significant predictors for fear of crime in Mexico.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Unfortunately crime statistics in Latin America are quite unreliable (Zdun 2011; WHO 2015). An initial attempt to gather the homicide and theft incidence from Mexico’s Central Security System (SESNS) found 12% of municipalities without records. In addition, unreported crime alarmingly reached 93% in 2013 (INEGI 2015). Therefore, following other researchers (Leenen and Cervantes-Trejo 2014; Torche and Villarreal 2014), health-based statistics from INEGI were preferred even if they still have missing values for some municipalities. States with the most municipalities without homicide data were: Yucatan (25), Tlaxcala (19), and Puebla (14); they add up to 64% of missing data.

  2. The two questions associated with Feelings of Insecurity and Avoidance Behaviors had more response options. However, these options were selected because they have less than 15% of missing values and have adequate psychometric properties, as will be shown below. The only exceptions with more missing values are the two items that involve public transportation and the one about parks (21% each).

  3. The scales of Trust and Police Efficacy were built using ordinal probit.

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Correspondence to Pablo Gaitán-Rossi.

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Appendix: Person Level and Municipality Level Correlations

Appendix: Person Level and Municipality Level Correlations

See Tables 4, 5.

Table 4 Correlation matrix for person-level variables
Table 5 Correlation matrix for municipality-level variables

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Gaitán-Rossi, P., Shen, C. Fear of Crime in Mexico: The Impacts of Municipality Characteristics. Soc Indic Res 135, 373–399 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-016-1488-x

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Keywords

  • Feelings of insecurity
  • Perceptions of risk
  • Avoidance behaviors
  • Multidimensional poverty
  • Homicide rates
  • Collective efficacy