Responding to Massacres by Mexican Gangs

Alejandro Hope, a frequent and much valued commenter on this site, is quoted in this week’s Economist saying that Mexican law enforcement responds inappropriately to massacres perpetrated by organized crime groups (e.g., the Sinaloa Cartel and Zetas). Alejandro argues that when, for example, a group of decapitated bodies is dumped in a gang’s territory, the police react by stepping up enforcement in that territory. This creates an incentive for gangs to commit atrocities and deposit the corpses in the territory of a rival.

Alejandro’s Kleiman-esque suggestion is for the police to change the incentives surrounding violence in Mexico. Instead of increasing enforcement wherever bodies are dumped, law enforcement should instead focus on the geographical area dominated by whichever organisation committed the murders. Instead of being indirectly rewarded by more law enforcement attention to a rival, the gang that engaged in mass murder would be punished by increased police attention.

He makes his argument in more detail here (In Spanish).

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

8 thoughts on “Responding to Massacres by Mexican Gangs”

  1. Godspeed.

    Also, people in the US should stop buying drugs. They can either quit using them (if they are the “bad” drugs), or grow their own here. Gardening is good exercise, if you aren’t doing it 8 hours a day in 100 degree weather.

    1. No doubt about it, the US (and Mexico) would likely be better places if everyone in the US voluntarily gave up all vices and devoted themselves to gardening (Candide like, perhaps?).

      Perhaps, NCG will be so kind as to advise as to how this can be implemented ASAP and certainly in enough time to stop the killing in Mexico.

      If NCG has no such plan–and I haven’t seen any indication thereof yet (will prayer do it?)–then perhaps something practical could be done such as legalizing on the Federal level pot, etc.

      Absent that, nothing wrong with Mark’s suggestion as to geographical area of enforcement, assuming the kleptomaniacal Mexican government is capable of taking effective action in this area beyond attempting to maximize the take from the drug business.

      1. Was there something about “Godspeed” that you didn’t understand? I think this idea is worth trying. I also don’t think all the responsibility lies with Mexico. Sheesh.

  2. Instead of increasing enforcement wherever bodies are dumped, law enforcement should instead focus on the geographical area dominated by whichever organisation committed the murders.

    Is it just me, or is the only possible response to this, “Well, d’uh.”?

  3. I think maybe it was Mark K. that suggested identifying the (most recent) atrocious gang, and piling on. Wipe them out in a targeted way. Put a bounty on them so the other gangs actually profit from not being the worst gang. Systemetically identify the worst, and eliminate. Go one to the next. Make gangs become invisible; not eliminate what can;t be eliminated – just make them better corporate citizens.

    “Gardening” is HUGE in CA & Midwest. Much pot never crosses any border larger than a county line. But ‘gardening” doesn’t fix meth/cocaine/heroin problems.

  4. “… law enforcement should instead focus on the geographical area dominated by whichever organisation committed the murders.”

    So if you’re my rival, I go commit violence in your area, and leave false evidence suggesting that you did it, in order to draw the heat down on your head. Anyone who’s ever raised children will understand how universal this strategy is. Criminal groups already go to great lengths to draw LE attention onto their rivals in this way. For example, a May 23rd Stratfor memo, “Narcomantas and Body Dumps” states:

    “Narcomantas are useful for spreading disinformation, particularly when paired with large displays of corpses. This is because authorities rarely verify claims of authorship on narcomantas, which provides a low-risk opportunity for organized criminal groups to create a narcomanta and attribute it to whomever they wish. Typically, the cartels falsely attribute narcomantas to rivals to attract or deflect pressure from law enforcement or the military.”

  5. One way to change the incentives regarding violence in Mexico would be to make drugs legal in the USA. No money for the gangs, they dry up an blow away. We would have some social consequences to easy drug availability here, but we are doing such a poor job of hampering drug access now that it seems likely to be an overall improvement.

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