Towards a safer Latin America

Brookings and Development Bank of Latin AmericaJulia Ruiz, Ernesto Talvi

Public safety is an important determinant of the welfare of families and communities. The blistering growth of crime and violence in many countries of Latin America in recent years has not only entailed high economic and social costs but also, by undermining trust among citizens and public authorities, compromised democratic governance and state legitimacy. This year’s Report on Economics and Development (RED) proposes an approach for the analysis of in- security in which crime results from decisions made by individuals in a particular situation.

While it is true that beliefs, perceptions, self-control, and other personality traits (in turn shaped by family experiences, education level, job opportunities, and other experiences throughout the life cycle) can tip an individual into crime, his physical and social environment, the incentives provided by illegal markets (e.g., drugs), and the credibility and efficiency of the criminal justice system are also important.

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