Source: "Shining a light"
Latin America represents 8% of the world's population but accounts for 38% of all murders. There were 140,000 deaths in the region from homicide in 2017 alone - that exceeds the number killed in combat for all wars this century.The Small Arms Survey has determined that if Latin American homicide rates could be lowered to US standards, 2.6 million lives could be saved by 2030. The financial costs are also high. In El Salvador, the costs of homicide amounts to about 1% of GDP per year. In Latin American nations with high homicide rates, the cost of police accounts for 5% of the federal budget, double that of less violent countries.
Note the low US homicide rate that has been falling since the early 90's. Why? Patrick Sharkey argues in his book Uneasy Peace that the US has created a "virtuous circle" made up of high incarceration rates and data-based approaches to policing, especially geographical data. Accurate rime reporting allows police to target their efforts in the most needed areas. Then the police can focus on lifestyle crimes (The "Broken Windows" approach) or even more aggressive tactics like stop-and-frisk.
In Latin America, there s a vicious circle. Reporting is bad, data isn't available and the police are often poorly trained and corrupt. Murders are concentrated in urban areas, where 80% of the killings occur on just 2% of the streets. Latin America underwent a massive shift to urban areas in the late 20th Century. Now 75% live in urban conditions, double the rate of Africa and Asia. This has led to overcrowding in slums and rampant unemployment which further increases the murder rate. Cali in Columbia shows the impact of better data. The mayor Rodrigo Guerrero set up "crime observatories" to collect and study crime data. They discovered that most of Cali's murders were not drug gang related as had been thought but alcohol and pay-day related. Restricting alcohol sales and gun permits lowered the homicide rate by 35% in just a few months.