This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
MEXICO CITY -- Nearly a of third of households in Mexico suffered a crime in 2011 and only in 8% of those cases was a preliminary investigation opened, according to new figures from the national statistics institute.
The numbers demonstrate that crimes with victims, including robbery, assault, car theft, extortion, identity theft, and kidnappings, are widely under-reported to authorities in Mexico and that the true scope is probably unknown.
The National Institute of Statistics and Geography, or Inegi by its Spanish acronym, polled 95,903 homes this spring and asked respondents to list instances of crime victimization in 2011, not including homicides.
In 30.6% of households polled, at least one adult resident was victimized in 2011. When the victim was present, "physical aggression" occurred in 26.6% of the cases.
The most common crimes were robberies or muggings, car thefts and burglaries. In 91.6% of the cases, preliminary investigations were not started, as victims widely distrust the police or see reporting crimes as a "waste of time," Inegi said in an analysis released Sept. 27.
The government of President Felipe Calderon, who is leaving office late this year, says that violence tied to the drug war is diminishing. Inegi's Public Safety Perception Index, a figure calculated on a monthly basis, shows that Mexicans' sense of personal safety is steadily rising.
However, a separate poll conducted in Mexico by the U.S. firm Gallup showed that Mexicans felt less safe walking alone at night in 2011 compared with 2007, the first full year of Calderon's campaign against the cartels.
In that struggle, more than 55,000 people have been killed, media estimates say, though independent analysts and activists say that figure is under-counted.
Inegi's new analysis also estimates that Mexicans lost $16.6 billion to crimes in 2011, or about 1.38% of the country's gross domestic product. Most of that amount was in stolen money or valuables, Inegi said, while 24.8% of that was money spent on preventive measures such as new locks, windows, and doors on homes.
[For the record 1:42 p.m. Oct. 5: An earlier version of this post said Mexicans lost $16.6 million to crime in 2011 instead of $16.6 billion.]
-- Daniel Hernandez
Photo: Armed police officers patrol in Mexico City in 2004. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times