Studies reveal crime’s toll on Caribbean economies

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says several studies it has commissioned have revealed that crime and violence have had a dramatic impact on women, youth and the economic well-being of families in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The IDB said the new studies “underscore the more hidden dimensions of the cost of crime” on regional economies, by looking at issues such as women’s health and property values.

The studies were the result of a call for proposals to academics and other experts to use innovative and appropriate methodologies to measure the cost of crime and violence in the region, the IDB said.

It said out of a total of 117 proposals received, eight were presented by their authors at a Jan. 24–25 seminar at the IDB headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“The children of women who have suffered from domestic violence have a greater risk of being born underweight, and grow up with more feeble health, with less chance they will be vaccinated and more likely to suffer from diarrhea,” said the IDB about one of the studies.

The Washington-based financial institution said Latin American and Caribbean citizens cite crime and violence as their top concern, above unemployment, healthcare and other issues.

It said the region suffers from some of the world’s highest homicide rates, stating that 20 of the world’s most violence cities are located in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Public trust in public institutions and the police is also lower than for other regions in the world, the IDB said.

“Crime has tangible direct costs, such as the cost of funding a private and public security infrastructure to prevent and combat crime,” said Ana Corbacho, sector economic advisor of the IDB’s Institutions for Development (IFD) Sector, which covers citizen security at the IDB.

“But the implications of crime on the region’s wellbeing are potentially much greater,” she added. “Violence not only victimizes individuals—it undermines trust in public institutions.”

Gustavo Beliz, an IDB specialist, said “a better understanding of the economic costs of violence and crime is vital for public-sector decision-making in the citizen security sector,

“It allows for a discussion more grounded on hard information, among officials in ministries who deal with the areas of security, planning and budgets,” he said.

“This helps violence prevention policies become policies of the state,” he added.

The IDB said its Citizen Security Platform has a completed or under execution project pipeline greater than US$450 million.

It aims to support the efforts of public institutions to better prevent crime and violence with actions that include social initiatives focused on the creation of opportunities for young people, strengthening management of police and penal justice, and with better rehabilitation.

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