Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bogotá's Homicide Rate Dips, but the Region's Stays High

'Bogotá is no longer one of the most violent' cities, boasts the headline.
Bogotá's media celebrated a dip in the city's homicide rate to 'only' 16.7 per 100,000. That's still a terribly high number by world standards, but moderate in Latin America and positively low in the general context of Colombia, whose national rate is about 33 homicides per 100,000 people.

Bogotá's homicide rate, meanwhile, is half that of Medellin, where 34 people were murdered per 100,000 residents last year. But Medellin's homicide rate was a great improvement over the previous year, when the city suffered a rate of 52 homicides per 100,000 residents. And Colombia's third-largest city, Cali, ended last year as the world's 6th most violent city, with 90 homicides per 100,000 people.

For its part, Latin America is the world's most violent region.

Colombia's national homicide rate, in the low 30s per 100,000 population, is still the highest in South America, but way below some Central American nations. (Actually, Venezuela almost surely has a higher homicide rate than Colombia's, but Venezuelan authorities stopped releasing homicide numbers years ago.)
According to the police's statistics, many of these murders stem from gang battles. But those gangs aren't fighting for carrots. They're fighting over drug sales and territory in which to market illegal drugs. So, Colombia's violence is directly related to the outlawed drug economy. (During the most violent years of the Medellin Cartel, that city's homicide rate neared 350 per 100,000 people, perhaps a world record.)

But Colombia's violence pales in comparison to that in some poor Central American countries, whose police and legal systems are no match for the power of the cartels which traffic drugs across their territories. San Pedro Sula, , Honduras, had 187 homicides for each 100,000 residents last year. Some cities in northern Mexico, where drug cartels battle to control the United States market, have homicide rates almost as high.

Colombia's homicide rate peaked during the final years of the Medellin and then rose again during the early 2000s, when the war against leftist guerrillas was at its hottest.  
To put that in context, the World Health Organization labels a rate above 10 homicides per 100,000 people as 'epidemic.'

Unlike epidemics caused by viruses and bacteria, this one is completely human-caused, and therefore humans can stop it. But the region is far from trying the only realistic: ending the policies of drug prohibition, which push this multibillion-dollar market into the hands of violent, outlaw groups which settle their differences with guns and bombs.

In Bogotá, Mayor Petro may deserve credit for the city's homicide drop because of the restrictions he placed on gun ownership.
Bogotá is near the bottom of this ranking of the homicide rates in 15 cities in the Americas. 

Yet, the North and South American cities are far more violent than these European cities. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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