MEXICO CITY — Investigations of abductions in Mexico declined 18 percent last year, Mexico's national chief of anti-kidnapping efforts said Wednesday in crediting better state and federal coordination.
The number of kidnapping investigations in 2014 was 1,394, down from 1,698 in 2013, Renato Sales said at a news conference.
But underreporting remains a persistent problem. Mexico's national statistics institute estimates more than 90 percent of kidnapping cases are never reported.
Sales said the vast majority of kidnapping victims are released alive, but 2.5 percent are killed even after a ransom is paid.
A recent report by a security-focused nonprofit group, the National Citizen Safety Observatory, said kidnapping in Mexico has been democratized, affecting not only the wealthy, but also the poor who are held for ransoms of as little as $50.
Francisco Rivas, director of the group, cautioned that while there appears to be a significant drop in the official numbers, the vast majority of kidnappings are never reported and even those that are may not be captured in these figures.
"It appears positive; however, you can't say with certainty that kidnapping in the country is decreasing," Rivas said. "Each year citizens report less."
Sales said that kidnapping rings no longer dedicate themselves to that single criminal enterprise. They have diversified into home burglaries, fuel theft and "express kidnapping," in which a victim may be held in the trunk of a car for 24 to 48 hours.
He also lamented a justice system in which cases can languish for more than a decade before someone is sentenced for the crime. On average it takes at least five years for a kidnapper to be sentenced, Sales said.
Immigrants passing through Mexico to the United States are among the most vulnerable and frequent kidnapping victims. There is little data available on the phenomenon, but Mexico's national human rights commission estimated at least 11,333 immigrants, almost all Central Americans, were kidnapped between April and September of 2010.