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Examining the interplay of governance and criminal activity as it affects poverty, economic activity and citizen security throughout Latin America.


Criminal violence has become a leading barrier to development that affects the lives of millions in Latin America. Armed violence and the proliferation of criminal organizations and youth gangs destroy the social fabric, undermine public institutions, and perpetuate poverty. Although the causes of this crime epidemic are complex, it is unquestionably linked to drug trafficking and its criminalization. Criminal violence thrives where law enforcement is corrupt and dysfunctional. Crime and violence create a poverty trap, where high crime undermines economic growth and trust in political institutions, which in turn contribute to high crime.

The PovGov Program has an active research agenda focused on criminal violence and human security. Our goal is to develop scientific and applied knowledge in the areas of crime, armed violence, public security, policing, crime prevention, and human rights. We study:

1) The causes of the spread of criminal violence and its geographic dispersion

2) How crime and violence impact economic performance, human capital accumulation, health outcomes, and the perpetuation of poverty

3) The effectiveness of particular policy interventions geared towards reforming dysfunctional public security institutions

4) Ways to improve police and community partnerships to improve public safety and reduce the use of lethal force by the police

5) Interventions to rebuild the social fabric in areas of high violence

Updated: Dec 2013


Criminal Violence