Photo: A funeral procession for some of the victims of a January 2010 attack that left 15 young people dead in Ciudad Juarez. Credit: Jesus Alcazar / European Pressphoto Agency
Daniel Hernandez, Mexico City
LA Times Blogs
An artificial-intelligence model generated by a university researcher in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, projects that 5,000 people will be killed in the violent border city this year. The same model projected at the start of 2010 that 3,000 would be killed in the greater Juarez area, a figure that eventually reached 3,111 -- about a 94% accuracy rate.
It may seem far-fetched to make such long-term projections on a fluid criminal conflict such as the drug war in Juarez. Researcher Alberto Ochoa, in an interview with La Plaza on Monday, said his model is based on methods that mimic biology-based, or "bioinspired," patterns. Barring a "radical change" in Ciudad Juarez -- where the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels are battling over the drug-trafficking route across the U.S. border into El Paso, Texas -- his projection foresees a figure of roughly 5,000 dead.
"This technique is nothing new," Ochoa said from the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez, where he is a researcher at the Center for Social Investigations. "It's not the most accurate model but it is based heavily on reality."
"It's not Excel," the researcher added, referring to the commonly used software program. "The model has to be fed, values have to be adjusted. It's complicated."
By differing measures, Juarez ranks as the most violent city in Mexico, most violent in the Western Hemisphere, or even the most violent in the world, the local newspaper El Diario reported earlier this month (link in Spanish). Juarez, with a current population of 1.3 million, has lost more than 230,000 residents in an "exodus" from the daily barrage of drug-related killings, kidnappings and extortion operations.
"And no one does nothing," Ochoa said. "It's going to get worse."
The 3,111 figure of deaths in Juarez in 2010 is used among local news outlets, citing figures from the Juarez morgue, and includes homicides in the greater Juarez area. Within Juarez city limits, the federal government's recently released homicide database says 2,738 people died there in 2010.
On Sunday in Juarez, gunmen opened fire on a group of young people playing soccer at a new government-built field, killing seven, authorities said (links in Spanish).