Homicide rates in Mexico City have spiked during the first eight months of this year, and many in the metropolitan area of some 20 million inhabitants fear that violent drug gangs are increasingly encroaching upon the capital.

Mexico's Federal District has logged 566 murders since January, putting its homicide rate at its highest level over the same period since 1998, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The statistics seem to spell an end to Mexico City's fame as a "safe haven" from the drug wars that affect many areas in the rest of the country, Juan Salgado, a security expert at CIDE University and a member of nonprofit government-accountability group Causa en Común, told the newspaper.

"It has been a slow process, but it appears that criminal activity around Mexico City is finally moving into the capital," Salgado said. "This is a very worrying trend."

The new data are a headache for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose presidency had initially been marked by a drop in the rate of killings linked to the country's murderous drug gangs. Nationwide, homicide rates rose 5 percent during the first eight months of this year, suggesting Peña Nieto's government could take little credit for the decrease in homicides during the past two years.

But Raúl Cervantes Andrade, a member of the president's Institutional Revolutionary Party, told El País that concerns about violence in Mexico are frequently overblown.

"There are parts of the country where [the situation] is complicated, and others where it has been resolved," Cervantes noted.

The senator named the Chihuahua municipality of Ciudad Juárez and the state of Sinaloa, home to the infamous cartel of the same name, as examples of areas where Peña Nieto's efforts were working.

"Juárez was one of the most dangerous cities in the world and today is a very safe city, with very low crime," Cervantes assured. "There is much coordination between the Federal Police, the army, the navy and state police."

He added that the issue of violence frequently comes down to perception. He said, "If you do not feel safe in a city, it is not safe; in many parts of the country, you can walk with total safety today."