Violence in three Latin American cities: A comparative study between Bogota, Lima, and Santiago

Research focus

This research will focus on three Latin American cities that have experienced rapid population growth, to assess if spatial and social exclusion, combined with a lack of access to government programs, are contributing to community (and social) disorganization. It will also assess whether these phenomena are causing violence and crime to increase.

The challenge

With an average of 15.5 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants, Latin America’s homicide rate is more than double the global average. While Bogota, Colombia, Lima, Peru, and Santiago, Chile have similarities in terms of social and economic development, there are also sharp contrasts in their respective levels of violence and social exclusion. Differences also exist in how their governments deal with criminal structures and networks. There is a need for public policies to better recognize and integrate local dynamics, and those dynamics’ connections with broader urban areas. The project will study select neighbourhoods in each of the three cities, and document the presence of government programs, assessing daily incidents of violence.

The research

The research aims to test the theory of social disorganization in a Latin American context. In particular, researchers will focus on violence in vulnerable neighbourhoods in cities that are otherwise experiencing economic growth and improved prosperity. In comparing the experiences of these three capital cities, the research will connect these approaches with broader concepts of inequality, spatial segregation, and deficits in public policies due to limited state presence and access to public services. The selection of Bogota, Lima, and Santiago will allow the research teams to make comparisons given that they are characterized by similar population densities and levels of inequality, but experience different degrees of violence. Public policies will also be compared.

The project seeks to:

  • analyze the impact of social, economic, and demographic drivers of violent crime
  • document the attitudes of residents to their day-to-day experiences with violence, as well as their interpretations of these experiences
  • determine which public programs (including community activities) are most effective in increasing security and reducing violence in vulnerable communities
  • identify and analyze community and political processes that impact the design and implementation of public policies
  • propose policy recommendations that will be effective in reducing violence.

Expected outcomes

The project will identify a framework to explain how violence in vulnerable Latin American cities is affected, determined, and modified by policies and daily interactions and relationships among community members. The research will produce a variety of outputs, from peer-reviewed academic papers to locally adapted policy recommendations.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Monday, April 1, 2013

End Date

Thursday, March 31, 2016


36 months

IDRC Officer

Florencio Ceballos

Total funding

CA$ 548,700


Latin America, Chile, Colombia, Peru

Project Leader

Hugo Fruhling


University of Chile

Institution Country


Institution Website