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Violent disorder in Ciudad Juarez: a spatial analysis of homicide

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This article considers the extent to which specific demographic and socioeconomic factors correlate with homicidal violence in the context of Mexico’s “war” on organized crime. We draw on Ciudad Juarez as a case study and social disorganization theory as an organizing framework. Social disorganization is expected to generate higher levels of homicidal violence. And while the evidence reveals several social disorganization factors associated with homicidal violence in Ciudad Juarez, not all relationships appear as predicted by the theory. Drawing on public census and crime data, our statistical assessment detects six significant variables (or risk factors) positively associated with homicidal violence in Ciudad Juarez between 2009 and 2010. Likewise, the assessment finds another six specific variables (or protective factors) that are negatively associated with above average homicide in the city between 2009 and 2010. The featured data and level of analysis do not conclusively demonstrate causation, nor was this the intent. Rather, we propose a baseline model for testing spatial-temporal dynamics of organized violence in multiple settings.

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  1. See Muggah (2012).

  2. See Muggah with Savage (2012).

  3. Extending the symbolic to the physical, Rodgers and O’Neill (2012) introduced the concept of “infrastructural violence” in order to draw attention to the political economy shaping the social and geographic dimensions of urban violence and the implications for “spatially just cities.”

  4. See

  5. This is several times the international average.

  6. See Hope (2012), Calderon et al. (2012), and Vilalta (2013).

  7. See Arsenault (2011), Booth (2010), Castillo (2010), and Orego (2010).

  8. See Astorga and Shirk (2010).

  9. In fact it is said that for many years the city raised most of its taxes from the legal distribution of alcohol (i.e. operating bars and nightclubs).

  10. Indeed, maquiladora is the name given to factories that make products reservedly for foreign markets and do not pay for the imports of raw materials.

  11. Data available at:

  12. Spatial autocorrelation coefficients were obtained for each year and for the entire period.

  13. It must be said that the federal police started collecting these data in 2009. As such, it is expected that their data collection processes would improve over time independently of the internal homicide dynamics.

  14. This is a finding routinely reported by public health specialists, for example, who employ the so-called “ecological model” to understanding risks in relation to self-directed, interpersonal, collective and structural violence.

  15. There is some discussion nowadays regarding the interest of criminal organizations in recruiting youngsters who have neither work nor go to school. In Spanish these youngsters are called “ni-nis”, that is, Ni estudian, ni trabajan. One reviewer made this observation. See also Ramsey (2012)

  16. If political oversight and collective efficacy were not measured in this study, still we find that above the average levels of homicidal violence were reported in police districts with higher levels of out-state residents.

  17. What we know is the number of homicides reports and the demographic and socioeconomic composition of the police district.

  18. Indeed, a recent study on the profile of inmates in federal prisons found significantly higher proportions of married and college-educated inmates among those convicted for murder (Vilalta 2014).

  19. According to the 2010 Census, the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) is the largest public health program covering approximately half of the city’s residents. It is directed to workers and their families in the private formal sector.

  20. A correlation analysis conducted after showed that more privately owned temporary housing units could be found in areas with more vacant housing units, housing units with no drainage, and with larger numbers of male population with higher levels of schooling.

  21. It is worth noting that such Family variables (as protective factors) have been noted in other studies on criminal violence in Mexico. See, for example, Vilalta and Fondevila (2013).

  22. See

  23. See Corcoran (2013).

  24. Two metropolitan areas have been assigned a larger budget (i.e. Monterrey and Guadalajara Metropolitan areas) but Ciudad Juarez currently has the largest per capita federal investment for crime prevention policy.


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Correspondence to Carlos Vilalta.

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Vilalta, C., Muggah, R. Violent disorder in Ciudad Juarez: a spatial analysis of homicide. Trends Organ Crim 17, 161–180 (2014).

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