The data released by the Ministry of the Interior days ago indicate that in 22 months of government the main crimes remained on the decline, after they had been on a sustained rise since the 1990s, with some occasional decrease.
The data shows that in 2021 there were 38 fewer homicides than in 2020 -representing 11.5% less, of which one less occurred in Montevideo and the remaining 37 in the interior-, 3,875 fewer robberies (completed and attempted) that represent 13.5% and 6,553 thefts, which are equivalent to 5.5%, less than the previous year.
When the data was disclosed, the reliability was questioned and it was raised, particularly from the Broad Front, that what fell were the complaints because there is a disincentive to complaints. This was stated, for example, by Senators Eduardo Bonomi (former Minister of the Interior) and Liliam Kechichian.
What reading can be made of the data? What crime should be looked at to know if these data are reliable? The crime that is most reliable as an indicator of insecurity is homicide, Diego Sanjurjo, coordinator of the Comprehensive Citizen Security Program of the Ministry of the Interior, doctor in political science and specialist in criminology, explained to El Observador. “Statistics -worldwide and not only in Uruguay- are usually made based on complaints, except in the case of homicides, where the act itself is measured. It is also a fact in which the police, the prosecutor’s office and the health services intervene “,
The 2021 data shows that the most marked decrease occurred in the interior, where it went from 168 in 2020 to 131 in 2021. If you look at departments, Canelones had five fewer (from 44 to 39), Maldonado from 24 to 15, Salto from 10 to 3, Rocha from 8 to 4, San José from 11 to 6, Lavalleja from 4 to 2, Colonia and Florida went from three to none, Durazno from four to none.
If you look at the homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants, the only department that is in the red for exceeding 15 murders per 100,000 is Rivera.
The report also shows that the day of the week in which more homicides are consumed is Sunday. Almost two out of ten occur that day (18%) followed by Saturday (16%) and the day they commit the least is Thursday (11%), as they also happen more at night and early morning than in the day, a fact which has been going on for years. Four out of ten occur between 10:00 p.m. and 5:59 p.m.: 127 crimes out of 300. In turn, 198 occurred on public roads, 66 in homes, 20 in prisons, two in commercial premises and 14 have no data.
Sanjurjo also explained that although the other crimes are measured through complaints, there are two elements that suggest that these also really fell during the last two years. The first is vehicle theft, since to collect the insurance you have to report the theft. That leads to extremely low under logging. In the global data, car thefts decreased from 14,953 to 12,935 (that is, minus 13.5%). In the case of cars, the data shows a decrease of 21% compared to 2020, motorcycle thefts 10% and vans 8%.
If the data is reviewed by police section, the 9th, which is the one located in the Centenario Stadium, is the one that accumulates the most thefts, of the 3,201 cars stolen in the year 448 were stolen from the Parque Batlle area, 14% of the total, followed by by the 10a de Pocitos with 337, and the 24a del Cerro with 230.
The other element, he explained, is that there is a historical correlation in the evolution of homicides and robberies. “Since the late 1990s, every time homicides increase, robberies also increase, and the same thing happens in reverse. For this reason, we can affirm with relative certainty that it was not only homicides that fell, but also other crimes,” he said.
Persecution of drug dealing
Regarding the cause of the decrease in crime, Sanjurjo said that the results are linked to the strategy that the Police leadership is implementing in agreement with the Minister of the Interior. “There is no magic recipe. The strategy is adjusted every week, according to the needs and the evolution of crime in the field. In addition, the police were reinforced on all fronts. On the one hand, the LUC gives them more security when acting. On the other hand, there are more vehicles, more personnel in the police stations, the Montevideo police force was decentralized, the human and technological deployment in rural areas was strengthened… that is why there was also such a marked decrease in cattle rustling.”
But above all, for Sanjurjo, the decrease in crime is linked to the persecution of drug dealers. “More mouths were closed, an anti-drug brigade was installed in each headquarters. It has a spillover effect because mouths are places where crime is concentrated. To the extent that a mouth is closed and those who directed it are blamed, the illegal market is altered and it takes time to rearm. In the meantime, there are fewer robberies, fewer homicides, and fewer associated crimes,” the expert assured.
Regional report highlights increase in crime in Latin America
This week InsightCrime’s regional homicide report was released, stating that in 2021 “most Latin American countries experienced a sharp increase in murders. It was to be expected that violence would resurface in the region, after the lifting of some of the strictest covid-19 confinements in the world.”
Regarding Uruguay, the report states that “if the official statistics are true, murders in Uruguay have decreased by 5% since 2020, placing the country at a homicide rate of 8.9 per 100,000 inhabitants.” The report cites figures published by the Attorney General’s Office, with 309 homicides in 2021, compared to 326 in 2020 and 342 in 2019, and notes that the “opposition Broad Front affirms that these figures were reduced, arguing that the category of suspicious deaths, created by the Ministry of the Interior” that excluded dozens of homicides.