Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Making sense of El Salvador's Murder Statistics

Making sense out of El Salvador's murder statistics shouldn't be this hard. The National Civil Police (PNC) released year-end murder numbers this week that has gotten everyone talking. The PNC reports that there were 4,354 murders in 2011. That's a sharp increase from 2010 when they reported 3,987 murders. It's also above the 4,223 murders that the PNC reported in 2009. 

However, El Salvador also has a Tripartite Commission that tracks murders. The Commission is comprised of representatives from the Fiscalía, Policía y Instituto de Medicina Legal (ILM). While they have not produced the total number of murders for 2011, the commission's 2010 total was 4,004 (17 more than the PNC counted). That's not much of a difference obviously. However, the ILM recorded 4,367 murders in 2009 when the PNC only reported 4,223. That's a difference of 144 murders. 

As of right now, then, 2011 holds the distinction of having the first or second most number of murders committed during the last ten years. We'll have to wait for the Tripartite Commission's findings from 2011 to be sure though.

Once we settle on the total number of murders, we need to move on to the country's population to figure out its murder rate per 100,000. Contrapunto uses the country's 2007 census as a starting point. That census pegged the population at 5.7 million. Contrapunto calculates the rate for 2011 (based upon a population of 5.7 million) at 76.3. The rate would be 70 for 2010 and 74 for 2009. However, I'm not sure that there is a lot of agreement that 5.7 million was accurate in 2007 and it sure isn't accurate in 2011.

In March of last year, La Prensa Grafica put together some data using ILM's murder statistics and what appears to be population data from CELADE. According to LPG's reporting, the murder rate in 2009 stood at 71 and it decreased in 2010 to 65. If we use CELADE's population projections for 2011 (6.222 million) and the PNC's murder totals (again, we don't have the Tripartite Commission's which might change things a bit), the rate comes out to 70 murders per 100,000. 

InSight and El Faro put El Salvador's murder rate at 65 per 100,000. From my calculations, that would put El Salvador's population at 6.7 million. The other possibility, which I think is a bit more likely, is that they just reported the 2010 rate and didn't recalculate it for 2011.

Either way, it hasn't been a good year in El Salvador. The murder rate is either equal to or slightly above its previous high in 2009. 

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