Eight years of homicide evolution in Monterrey, Mexico: a network approach

Rodrigo Dorantes-Gilardi, Diana García-Cortés, Hiram Hernández-Ramos & Jesús Espinal-Enríquez
Scientific Reports volume 10, Article number: 21564 (2020)

Homicide is without doubt one of Mexico’s most important security problems, with data showing that this dismal kind of violence sky-rocketed shortly after the war on drugs was declared in 2007. Since then, violent war-like zones have appeared and disappeared throughout Mexico, causing unfathomable human, social and economic losses. One of the most emblematic of these zones is the Monterrey metropolitan area (MMA), a central scenario in the narco-war. Being an important metropolitan area in Mexico and a business hub, MMA has counted hundreds to thousands of casualties. In spite of several approaches being developed to understand and analyze crime in general, and homicide in particular, the lack of accurate spatio-temporal homicide data results in incomplete descriptions. In order to describe the manner in which violence has evolved and spread in time and space through the city, here we propose a network-based approach. For this purpose, we define a homicide network where nodes are geographical entities that are connected through spatial and temporal relationships. We analyzed the time series of homicides in different municipalities and neighborhoods of the MMA, to observe whether or not a global correlation appeared. We studied the spatial correlation between neighborhoods where homicides took place, to observe whether distance is a factor of influence in the frequency of homicides. We constructed yearly co-occurrence networks, by correlating neighborhoods with homicides happening within a same week, and counting the co-occurrences of these neighborhood pairs in 1 year. We also constructed a crime network by aggregating all data of homicides, eliminating the temporal correlation, in order to observe whether homicide clusters appeared, and what those clusters were distributed geographically. Finally, we correlated the location and frequency of homicides with roads, freeways and highways, to observe if a trend in the homicidal violence appeared. Our network approach in the homicide evolution of MMA allows us to identify that (1) analyzing the whole 86-month period, we observed a correlation between close cities, which decreases in distant places. (2) at neighborhood level, correlations are not distance-dependent, on the contrary, highest co-occurrences appeared between distant neighborhoods and a polygon formed by close neighborhoods in downtown Monterrey. Moreover, (3) An elevated number of homicides occur close to the 85th freeway, which connects MMA with the US border. (4) Some socioeconomic barriers determine the presence of homicide violence. Finally, (5) we show a relation between homicidal crime and the urban landscape by studying the distance of safe and violent neighborhoods to the closest highway and by studying the evolution of highway and crime distance over the cartel-related years and the following period. With this approach, we are able to describe the spatial and temporal evolution of homicidal crime in a metropolitan area.

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