Theft Reporting in Mexico City

Crime and violence
Conflict, Crime and Violence

Public security is a priority for the Mexican government.[1] Between 2006 and 2010, the budget assigned to federal public security increased by 202.23%, and the budget allocated to local public security in each of the 32 federal states rose by 20% (see Table 1).

Table 1. Budget Allocation 2006-2010 (in June 2010 pesos)
Budget allocation

Despite this increase, few academic studies address issues related to public security like theft reporting, social costs, corruption, victimization, etc. There are few studies focusing on federal jurisdiction crimes as drug-trafficking (Shelley (2001) and Guerrero-Gutiérrez (2010)), when, according to the Instituto Ciudadano de Estudios sobre la Inseguridad (ICESI ), 83.7% of criminal offenses in Mexico are of local jurisdiction and, from these, 87% are theft (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Crime Distribution in Mexico
Crime distribution in Mexico

Theft represents 72.1% of criminal offenses in Mexico. Furthermore, even when the Mexican government spends more in crime-related policies than in higher education, theft reporting rates seem to be low and stable over time (see Figure 2). It is difficult for government to reduce crime if households do not report it.

Figure 2. Theft Reporting in Mexico
Theft Reporting in Mexico

Hence, it is important to investigate the incentives households face when reporting theft in Mexico City. In a recent paper, we do so theoretically and empirically. We find a direct relationship between theft reporting and the robbed recovered proportion. Also, we find an inverse relationship between theft reporting and (1) its price, and (2) theft itself. Our analysis uses data from a victimization survey that measures crime determinants in Mexico City.

We model a representative household which decides whether or not to report a theft. We derive some simple comparative static exercises and test them. In our results we find that the variables that quantify theft monetarily are significant in determining its reporting (car theft, personal theft and burglary). Furthermore, it is important to point out that the probability a household victim of car theft files a report for crime is 14.9 percent higher than the probability a household with the same characteristics that is not a car theft victim. This may be because the recovered proportion of the robbed object is high when reporting a car theft due to car insurance. For an insurance company to cover the theft of a car, the offense must be reported. This empirical finding ratifies one of the conclusions of the theoretical model.

When the value of the robbed object is higher, the probability of theft reporting increases. The marginal effects on theft reporting are decreasingly sorted for auto theft, burglary and personal theft victims. We expect the first kind of theft to have the highest value and the last one the lowest. When households perceive a big loss, they have higher incentives to report it because the potential recovery is bigger.

We also find that households whose members’ average commute time is between 30 and 90 minutes a day, and more than 90 minutes raise their probability of reporting a crime by 3.3 and 3.8 percentage points respectively, compared to those whose commute is less than 30 minutes. This may mean that spending more time commuting increases the probability of filing a report due to lower transaction or opportunity costs (more time is spent away home anyway). This helps answer the following empirical question: what happens with theft reporting as its price goes down? Here, commuting time may be considered as a proxy of theft reporting prices. Therefore, if theft reporting prices go down, then theft reporting increases.

As expected, the price for theft reporting is important when creating public policy, because it highlights that agents take into account the price of filing a report. Hence, if government wishes to increase the theft reporting rate, it must put into practice policies that reduce the price of reporting criminal offenses.

Finally, we find that a higher probability of suffering a theft implies a lower level of theft reporting.This may mean that, when households suffer theft, their incentives to report decrease; this may be due to a perception of impunity when robbed or not enough confidence in the judicial system to pay for the costs of theft reporting. These findings should guide public policymakers to design policies to increase theft reporting in a developing country like Mexico.

1. Security and the rule of law comprise the Örst section, out of Öve, of the National Development Plan (2007-2012), the document that outlines the government strategy for each presidential period.


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