Mexico Officials: Kidnappings Down 18 Percent

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MEXICO CITY — Kidnappings in Mexico have dropped by 18 percent and murders by 7 percent since governors, mayors and federal officials signed a national security accord to battle rising crime in August, officials said Friday.

The average number of kidnappings fell to about 72 a month since the deal was signed, down from more than 90 per month in the first eight months of the year, according to data presented by public security system chief Monte Alejandro Rubido.

Some 943 people have been kidnapped across Mexico this year, he said.

Reliable data on kidnappings is hard to come by in Mexico because most abductions go unreported for fear of police involvement. The nonprofit Citizens' Institute for Crime Studies estimates the real kidnapping rate is more than 7 times higher than the official rate, at about 500 per month nationwide.

Government Secretary Fernando Gomez-Mont told a meeting attended by President Felipe Calderon that the security accord will help to secure funding for security measures, weed out corrupt officials, authorize more powerful police weapons and pass legal reforms aimed at cracking down on crime.

Since taking office two years ago, Calderon has deployed more than 20,000 soldiers across Mexico to battle drug gangs fighting for lucrative smuggling routes.

The crackdown has fueled more violence, leaving about 4,000 people dead so far this year. It has also unveiled high-level corruption within the president's security cabinet, leading to the detention of almost a dozen high-ranking law enforcement officials, including the country's former anti-drug prosecutor, on suspicion of collaborating with drug traffickers.

Calderon sent Congress a sweeping security initiative aimed at weeding out police corruption and improving coordination among federal and local governments in September. Lawmakers have yet to vote on the bill.

"We know there are a lot of challenges, that the road that we must take is long and difficult," Calderon said. "But we can't and we won't back down."