RESEARCH TITLE: Violent crime in Latin America and Caribbean cities and its association with urbanisation and settlement patterns and trends

Abstract: For the last century, Social Disorganisation Theory (SDT) and associated theoretical principles such as collective efficacy have provided explanations for the geographical distribution of crime. This theory considers neighbourhood effects, and how social, cultural and organisational traits interact with structural characteristics to influence crime rates. Research on SDT has had mixed results when tested outside North American cities. In Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) cities, the processes of urbanisation, social dynamics, organisational structure and cultural influence in neighbourhoods differ from the North American experience (Villarreal & Silva, 2006). Understanding how SDT influences crime, in particular violent crime, in the urban settings of LAC cities requires examination.

This research involves analysing –in the context of SDT- how urbanisation and settlement processes are associated with patterns of violent crime in LAC cities. To initiate this research we propose that when compared to the North American experience, urbanisation and settlement patterns in LAC cities have been different, with these patterns having a consequence on the extent to which social, cultural, organisational and other structural factors have an influence on violent crime.

This research aims to contribute to the criminological framework of Latin America and the Caribbean by providing empirical evidence about the relevance of SDT in these settings. What may emerge is an adaptation of SDT for it to be applicable to LAC settings, or the creation of a new theory that explains how neighbourhood effects influence patterns of violent crime in LAC cities. Improving our understanding about how SDT influences violent crime can in turn improve the policies that are used to prevent crime in neighbourhoods and more widely inform improvements in urban planning.

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Insights by Catalina

Catalina is a PhD researcher at the UCL Jill Dando Institute Latin America and Caribbean Unit


Languages spoken: English, Spanish