Story by Jill Replogle
Fronteras Desk

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A new analysis of violence in Mexico found that homicides appear to have dropped by about 15 percent last year compared to 2012.

There's good news and bad news in the latest report on drug violence from the University of San Diego's Justice in Mexico Project. Homicides across Mexico appeared to be on the decline from their high point in 2011. Mexican authorities would like to take credit for that decrease. David Shirk, one of the report's authors, said that's debatable.

"In some areas, for example, Baja, Chihuahua, states along the border, certain cartels have established a monopoly, so they don't need to fight anyone to get back to business," Shirk said.

He said Mexico's crackdown on drug cartels may actually have contributed to the grisly violence there in recent years.

"So now what you have in lots of places in Mexico is small bands, gangs of organized crime members who are no longer able to move cocaine from Colombia but they can kidnap and they can extort people, and that's actually in some ways a worse problem for ordinary Mexicans," he said.

Kidnapping and extortion have continued to rise in Mexico, even as organized crime killings have fallen.

Plus, homicides in Baja California increased last year by about 54 percent by one official count. Note, homicide figures in Mexico vary widely depending on who's counting. Authorities say most of those victims were involved in street-level drug trafficking.

Despite the uptick, the number of homicides in Baja California last year was still less than half what it was in 2007 at the height of drug war violence there.