Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Thursday, August 3, 2023

SWJ Study Finds Covid-19 Had No Effect on Homicide, But Affected Other Crimes in Mexico

By "El Huaso" for Borderland Beat

A new study published in the Small Wars Journal found that while the incidence of certain crimes such as muggings and vehicle thefts decreased in relation to Covid-19 in Mexico, homicides remained stable and domestic violence increased.

As a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many governments around the world instituted policies intended to reduce the chance of transmission and lower infection rates. These policies included school closures, stay at home orders, and suspension of in person activities. Many crime analysts focused on the effect of these policies on organized crime in Latin America, exploring how criminal groups adapted to the pandemic, from selling forged Covid-19 vaccination cards to acting as lenders to struggling businesses.

These policies also offered an example for researchers to explore how human mobility and contact relate to criminality.

This study, "Crime and COVID-19 in Mexico: Some Counterintuitive Results", published in the Small Wars Journal on July 23, 2023, tackled the question: "what did Covid-19 policies mean for criminality in Mexico?" Researchers Sean Fiorella, Tony Payan, Daniel Potter, and Rodrigo Montes de Oca Arboleya from Rice University in Houston, Texas sought to answer the question by testing for four crimes, homicide and vehicle theft, which they argue are related to organized crime in Mexico, and mugging and domestic violence, which they categorize as unrelated to organized crime. The incidence rate of these crimes was examined on a state and national level, as well as over time.

The researchers used a combination of datasets on security, population, and Covid-19 infection trends released by the Mexican government as well as data on movement released by Apple.

They found that the crime rate for muggings and vehicle theft both fell in the first six months of the Covid-19 lockdowns, likely because people traveled less, opting to stay home when possible. Homicides and domestic violence however were stable. 

In the following six months, muggings and vehicle thefts rose again, but stayed below the previous years figures. Homicides remained stable, but domestic violence increased.

Despite expecting to find an increase in criminality as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns and social distancing, the study found that "homicides did not exhibit a relationship with COVID-19". The researchers attribute the decreases in muggings and vehicle theft to decreased mobility due to lockdowns. People stayed home, and therefore presented less of a target to certain crimes. Homicides however, were unrelated to Covid-19 infections, remaining stable throughout.

Read the full study linked below:

“Crime and COVID-19 in Mexico: Some Counterintuitive Results." Small Wars Journal., 2023,‌

Other sources:

InSight Crime, Vanguardia


  1. En Sinaloa le tiraban balasos al COVID que porque solo cabe un 19 en culiacan y todo Sinaloa

  2. You would think homicides would have gone down.

  3. ELMO doing his part for the Mexican economy and keeping the funeral business humming despite the pandemic. Good work ELMO!!!


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