By Andrew Potts, Marketing –
E.F. Schumacher once said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction.”
Latin America has a rich heritage and culture, but today it’s mostly known for its high body count. Urban violence torments the region, delaying and even preventing economic growth. Robert Muggah, research director of the Igarape Institute in Brazil, says it will only get worse.
Muggah argues that the world’s cities, not its nation-states, will define the future of unrest. The more fragile a city, the more likely it is for violence, murder and disorder to creep in. And the more rapidly a city expands, the more fragile it is. This doesn’t bode well for Latin America, as it already has the highest concentration of urban dwellers in the world, and the cities are only expanding. To put this in context, New York needed 150 years to reach eight million people, but Sao Paulo and Mexico City needed only 15 years. The UN-Habitat estimates that by 2050, 87 percent of all Latin Americans will be living in cities. Unless preventative measures are taken, the level of violence in these cities will continue to rise. Thankfully, there is one country that has led the way in Latin America’s fight to reduce crime.
Leading the Charge Against Murder
In 1991, the city of Medellin, Colombia, was the murder capital of the world, with a murder rate of 381 per 100,000 people. As a country, Colombia had a murder rate of 78 per 100,000 people. Yet in 2014, Medellin’s murder rate had dropped to 26.7 per 100,000, while Colombia’s murder rate was 26.8 per 100,000. What accounts for this large reduction in violence?
Muggah says the mayors in Colombia’s three biggest cities were a key factor. Each of them borrowed ideas and practices from around the world and designed violence-prevention strategies. For example, the mayor of Guerrero of Cali collected data on where and when homicides were taking place, and he discovered a large portion of homicides occurred early Sunday mornings and were often tied to alcohol and fights. He implemented a curfew and adjusted restrictions and policies, and shortly thereafter his city’s homicides decreased. While this same policy will not work in all areas, the concepts can certainly be applied. It’s just a matter of whether the respective governments think reducing crime is worth the time and effort.
Weapons for the Fight
If Latin America wishes to be defined for something other than violence, each individual country will have to follow Colombia’s lead and enact policies to reduce violence. A powerful tool that could aid in this war against violence is EyeDetect®, the latest development in lie detection software. This polygraph alternative can screen individuals like job applicants, police officers and public officials to ensure they obey the law and do not have ties to criminal organizations. (Businesses can only use this tool in countries where anti-polygraph laws don’t apply.) While it’s certainly not a panacea for all of Latin America’s violence problems, it will help the region take a step forward, freeing people to once again see the vibrant culture that exists in the area instead of tallying the body count.