Kidnapping rate rises in Mexico, but is lower than at the beginning of the year

18/08/2020

Mexico had a 3.3% increase in the number of kidnappings in July, but the number of victims fell and is generally lower than the number recorded at the beginning of the year before the pandemic began.

Kidnapping rate rises in Mexico. Archive photo by Agencies
Kidnapping rate rises in Mexico. Archive photo by Agencies

According to the NGO Alto al Secuestro (Stop Kidnapping), in July there was an increase of 3.3% in the investigation files opened for the crime of kidnapping.

"In July there were 92 files, compared to 89 in June," the organization said in a bulletin. However, the number of victims fell by 10.5%, as during July there were 119 victims while in June there were 133.

There was a 28.4% increase in the number of people arrested for the crime of kidnapping, as 149 people were arrested for this crime in July while 116 alleged perpetrators were arrested in June. According to a national report that covers the period from December 2018 - when Andrés Manuel López Obrador came to power - to July 2020, the country has 2,768 kidnapping cases.

This figure is 35.2% less than that recorded in the same period of time but during the mandate of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), although it is 194.4% more than in the same period of time of the presidency of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012).

December 2018 began with 179 investigation files opened for kidnapping, while in July 2020 there were 92. Although the fall of this crime has been gradual, it has been felt above all with the arrival of the coronavirus and the social distancing measures dictated by the authorities in April and May.

In March, there were 121 cases of kidnapping reported by the authorities in the country and the figure fell in April (99) and May (78). In June and July, there were 89 and 92 cases, respectively, an upturn that nevertheless remains below the average of 138 kidnappings per month.

In the bulletin, Alto al Secuestro also denounced the lack of transparency in the central state of Puebla, which this month did not provide the NGO with statistical information on this crime, so the figures in this state correspond to information obtained through the media.

Mexico recorded in 2019, considered the most violent year in history, a total of 34,608 homicides and 1,012 femicides. The figures so far this year have not diminished, although the authorities assure that these crimes have been contained and, in addition, there is a substantial decrease in other types of crimes.

The story of two Colombians kidnapped by 'Coyotes' in Mexico

Two young Colombians were kidnapped in Mexico for nearly 15 days when they traveled from Bucaramanga in Santander to Bogotá on 10 February and boarded a flight at El Dorado International Airport to fulfill the American dream.

Edinson Quiñonez Conde, 25 (left) and Kevin Cristo Herrera, 21 (right) will return to the country tomorrow. Photo: Gaula Policía Nacional
Edinson Quiñonez Conde, 25 (left) and Kevin Cristo Herrera, 21 (right) will return to the country tomorrow. Photo: Gaula Policía Nacional

Kevin Cristo Herrera, 21, and Edinson Quiñonez Conde, 25, traveled to Anahuac in the state of Tamaulipas, where they reportedly sought contact to help them illegally cross the U.S. border, according to the coordinated investigation by Colombian and Mexican police.

Tamaulipas is an important commercial point with the U.S. - two sea crossings and 15 land crossings - which at the same time, made this state the cradle of one of the most powerful cartels dedicated to cocaine trafficking, 'the Zetas', and opened the lucrative business of trafficking illegal migrants through the so-called 'coyotes'.

In Colombia, Christ and Quiñonez's relatives have not heard from them since 13 February. Everything indicates that on that day the possible negotiation that they had been carrying out with a group of people dedicated to the passage of illegal migrants to North America was damaged.

"In a first hypothesis, it is estimated that they did not take all the money for the 'coyotes' to pass them by; or the criminals saw an opportunity to obtain more money and began to communicate with their families," Major Oscar Prieto, head of the Gaula de la Policía in Santander, told EL TIEMPO.

So on February 21, the sister of one of the young men approached the Gaula's facilities in Bucaramanga and reported that her relative had been kidnapped and was asking for $10,000 for each of them to be released.

In Bucaramanga, the Gaula advised the family to attend to every communication, mostly through WhatsApp messages, and thus maintain a possible negotiation. At the same time, the police made contact with their counterparts in Mexico with the objective of achieving the rescue or liberation of Christ and Quiñonez.

"Communications and the demand for money changed, at first they tried to be nice, and ended up, most likely to generate pressure, threatening to kill them if they did not agree to their demands," said Major Prieto.

In Colombia, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the police opened the criminal news for kidnapping for ransom and began exchanging information with the Mexican anti-kidnapping police, who gave priority to locating the Colombians, "always in the fear that they would be killed," the investigator said.

"From the CiberGaula the investigation was advanced based on the cellular numbers from which they called and contacted the families. We tried to make a georeference. The information collected was given to the Mexican Police who tracked the numbers and mounted the rescue operation. They verified the identity of one of the kidnappers, and through his cell phone they were able to locate him," said General Fernando Murillo, director of the Gaula of the Police nationwide.

The hostages had been taken to Monterrey, where Mexican police located and rescued them on March 5 amidst heavy gunfire. "Fortunately our nationals were unharmed. Their state of health is good and in the next few hours, they will arrive in Colombia. They were left in the custody of the Colombian embassy," General Murillo said. The young people returned to the country on March 11, after meeting some requirements from the authorities in Mexico.

Kidnapping in Mexico

Approximately 5 Mexicans are kidnapped every day. The states with the highest number of kidnappings are Federal District, Guerrero, Baja California, and Michoacan. The main victims of the kidnappers are people of known economic solvency (businessmen, industrialists, politicians, traders, cattle breeders, artists) and their families.

According to the Citizens' Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, I believe that on average, for every kidnapping reported, five are not reported. More than 75% of them are solved with the payment of the ransom. The largest ransom paid in recent years is U$S 50,000,000 in Mexico City. The places where kidnappings most commonly occur are at work or home, restaurants or places near the home.

Express Kidnapping

It's a short term kidnapping, with a quick gain, of one or more people. The pressure is on the individual to make cash withdrawals from ATMs or request a ransom. Ransom demands are small amounts or more easily obtained. Low professionalism of the offenders, usually violent. It generates moral and psychological damage to the victims and their environment.

Collective Kidnapping

It's a lesser-used crime. Its objective is to obtain safe conduct (hostages), to negotiate a surrender, or to ask for safe means of escape. The offenders are usually thieves and not professional kidnappers.

Extortionate Kidnapping

It's a more complex crime than the previous ones. Your objective, as in the other cases, is to obtain cash. As victims, people with economic strength are usually selected.

Virtual Kidnapping - Extortion

It's a nonexistent kidnapping. Criminals take advantage of a person's absence (travel, movies, etc.) to extort money from the family. The figures requested are smaller, so it is easier to collect the sums they demand. Most common example: calls made from detention centers or prisons. Offenders access information through various channels: telephone directory, contest coupons, active information (victim), passive information ( circle).

Places where kidnappings usually occur

Close to home and office

In restaurants

On the road

In transit hotels

Others

Main objectives of the kidnappings

92% MONEY

5% PUBLICITY

3% POLITICAL

Kidnapping Resolution

70 % paid rescue, no police intervention.

22 % Paid rescue, with police intervention.

6% No ransom payment, with police intervention.

2 % Escape or death, without police intervention.

Source: National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)

What is an express kidnapping and how to act if you suffer one

Be alert when you walk down the street and take care of who goes around you. Most of these kidnappings occur on the routes you frequent near work and home. Try to give neighbors and friends the least information about your assets and economic capacity. Many kidnappings are perpetrated by people close to the victim.

Always visualize escape routes when you go to a place in case you find yourself in danger. If you are at risk you can shout "fire" or "earthquake" to get the attention of others around you. During the last years, the 'express kidnappings' have increased in Mexico, however, not everyone knows what this term refers to and how to act if you are the victim of one.

Express kidnapping is the retention of a person against their will for the shortest possible time to obtain the gain in exchange for their freedom, either by withdrawing their accounts from ATMs or by asking their family members for a ransom.

In this type of crime, there is no strategy to keep the victim captive for more than 48 hours because the captors do not plan the crime in advance and only go out in search of a victim.

Be calm

The first thing you should do is stay calm. These criminals seek to get money without complications in the shortest possible time.

Negotiation

Seek to negotiate with the captors in a calm way to seek an agreement, although not being too accessible to their requests.

Take care of the data

We must take care of the information that is given to the captors, avoiding talking about goods and properties. Not being a planned kidnapping they do not know much about the economic situation of the people they kidnap.

Avoid looking at the captors in the eyes

This could put your life at risk. Better choose to keep your eyes down during a conversation.

The contact telephone

If you are asked for a family member's contact number, it is better to give a local number. This way the communication will be easier and you do not risk the privacy of someone else.

Remember the details

During your conversations with the kidnappers pay attention to details and information about them. This will facilitate their subsequent capture.

Speed

Look for the negotiation to end as soon as possible.

How to act when obtaining freedom

When the victim is released, he/she should denounce what happened by telephone or go to the nearest public security institution. Seek professional help to overcome the emotional trauma you experienced.

According to figures from the Autonomous University of Mexico, five people are abducted per day.