Summary of Citizen Security in Latin America

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Citizen Security in Latin America summary

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When it comes to sheer numbers, US murder capitals such as St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit and New Orleans pale in comparison to the killing fields of Latin America. Homicide statistics for cities in El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras and Brazil far surpass those of America’s most dangerous inner cities, Robert Muggah and Katherine Aguirre Tobón write in this think tank report. More than 2.5 million people have been murdered in Latin America since 2000 – and, considering rampant issues with underreporting of crime within the region, even that dizzying total might be low. The authors argue that the solutions aren’t harsher sentences or more prisons, however. Instead, Latin America needs to embark on a common-sense strategy of citizen security, allocating resources to high-crime neighborhoods and finding ways to keep young men in school or in a job. Their suggestions aren’t groundbreaking, but given the staggering scope of Latin America’s crime epidemic, a change in approach seems necessary. getAbstract recommends this report to readers seeking insight into Latin America’s stubbornly high crime rates.

About the Authors

Robert Muggah is co-founder of the Igarapé Institute and a specialist in cities, security, migration and new technologies. Katherine Aguirre Tobón is a faculty member at Institute Igarapé. She specializes in violence and citizen security.


A Murder Epidemic 

The crime statistics from Latin America and the Caribbean are staggering. The region accounts for just 8% of the global population, yet it’s responsible for fully 33% of murders, worldwide. More than 2.5 million Latin Americans have died by intentional homicide since 2000. And Latin America’s murder rate of 21.5 victims per 100,000 people in 2012 was three times the global average. From Mexico to South America, Latin Americans routinely name violent crime as one of their main worries.

In many ways, Latin America’s crime wave defies easy explanation. Overall, prosperity has improved markedly in the region during recent years. Some 80 million Latin Americans moved out of poverty from 2003 to 2012, income inequality grew less severe and the middle class expanded. Yet violence also continued to rise – undercutting the common assumption that there is always a clear correlation between overall economic prosperity and violent crime. The World Bank notes that murder rates often increase as incomes rise, then decline once a nation achieves higher levels of per capita income.

Violence by the Numbers

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