In DepthData Science

Predicting where victims of Mexico's violence are buried

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Science  30 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6345, pp. 1317-1318
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6345.1317

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More than 30,000 people have disappeared without a trace in Mexico, most since violence skyrocketed after the government began battling drug cartels in 2006. Police investigations rarely solve such crimes, so many families are left to search on their own for the hidden graves that may hold their relatives. Last week, a team of data scientists and human rights researchers released a new tool for the searchers: a map predicting which municipalities in Mexico are most likely to house hidden graves. In addition to 43 municipalities with hidden graves publicly reported in 2016—mostly in the states of Veracruz and Guerrero—the model identified 45 other municipalities as having a 70% or higher chance of containing unreported graves. Topping that list is Coyuca de Benítez in Guerrero, with an 86% chance. Five of the 10 with the highest probabilities—including Nogales, Sonora; and Juarez, Chihuahua—are in states along the U.S. border. Places least likely to contain hidden graves include the southern states of Quintana Roo and Yucatán.