Prevention is Crucial to Reduce Crime and Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean

February 7, 2017

WASHINGTON D.C., February 7, 2017 – As crime and violence continue to be a pervasive and costly problem in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the region needs to increase prevention efforts based on a clearer understanding of the complex circumstances that fuel this reality and policies that are proven to work, according to a new World Bank report released here today.

The report, Stop the Violence in Latin America: A Look at Prevention from Cradle to Adulthood, says violence remains a significant challenge for LAC in spite of the significant economic and social gains experienced by the region over the last decade.

“High levels of crime and violence take a heavy toll on development and have a high cost in human lives,” said Jorge Familiar, World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean. “In order to be successful, the region needs to build a more inclusive social fabric with more equality of opportunities, and implement prevention policies that have worked to curb violence, such as reducing school dropout rates and increasing quality youth employment.”

According to the report, insecurity is the result of many factors – from drug trafficking and organized crime, to weak judicial and law enforcement systems that promote impunity, to a lack of opportunities and support for marginalized young populations. Crime and violence are also highly geographically concentrated in specific pockets within neighborhoods and cities, so not all countries, cities or communities in the region suffer the same levels of violence.

The report underscores that there’s “no magic formula or single policy” to fix the problem, and it emphasizes that relying only on greater police action or greater incarceration is not enough. A well-targeted combination of initiatives can play a significant role in preventing violent acts and criminal behavior.

A key conclusion is that it is never too early nor too late for prevention to work. While long-term approaches to prevention may begin before birth and reap benefits in adolescence and adulthood, effective policy interventions with shorter-term horizons are also available later in life, such as investments in education, behavioral and soft skills programs, and well-targeted poverty reduction efforts.

The study underscores how a number of policies not specifically designed to prevent criminality have substantial crime prevention benefits (e.g., early childhood development, education, and poverty reduction programs). Therefore, cost effective prevention may also be achieved by re-designing and rethinking existing policies through the lens of crime prevention.

Some examples of programs that work include nurse home visitations and early childhood development initiatives, which have proven to reduce the likelihood that children will run away from home, get arrested or convicted. Most sizeable and persistent reductions in both violent and property crime have also been linked to policies that discourage young people from dropping out of high school. The report finds that even health policies should be considered to prevent and “treat” crime, violence, and aggression. Everything from better nutrition to mental health treatments offer promising results.

The report also acknowledges that the effectiveness of many of these preventive policies relies heavily on the institutional capacity to implement them. Crime prevention can clearly be more successful in a context where institutions such as the police or the judicial system are trusted.


Learn more about the work of the World Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean:

Visit us on Facebook:

Be updated via Twitter:

For our YouTube channel:

Media Contacts
In Washington, DC
Alejandra Viveros
Tel : +1-202-458-2841
In Washington, DC
Marcela Sánchez-Bender
Tel : +1-202-473-5863