Understanding Unlikely Successes in Urban Violence Reduction

21 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2014 Last revised: 13 Nov 2015

Kristian Hoelscher

University of Oslo

Enzo Nussio

Center for Security Studies, ETH Zurich

Date Written: June 30, 2014


The problems of violence in Latin America are often reiterated, yet understanding how and why violence declines is far less common. While urban violence takes different forms and has a range of motivations, we suggest that strengthening political and social institutions are important in violence reduction processes. The article examines this using a comparative analysis of two cities which have recently seen unusual and marked reductions in lethal violence: Bogotá in Colombia and Recife in Brazil. Drawing on primary data collection, the case studies suggest improvements in public security are linked with institutionalising progressive security policies, increasing accountability of political institutions, and social reforms encouraging civic values and commitments to non-violence. While findings are specific to these two cases, they may plausibly apply to a broader range of cities, such that commitments to improve public policy and political institutions can overcome structural risk factors that foster violence.

Keywords: Violence reduction, urban violence, institutional reform, comparative process tracing, Colombia, Brazil

JEL Classification: H56, N46, O18

Suggested Citation

Hoelscher, Kristian and Nussio, Enzo, Understanding Unlikely Successes in Urban Violence Reduction (June 30, 2014). Urban Studies. DOI: 10.1177/0042098015589892. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2461064 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2461064

Kristian Hoelscher

University of Oslo ( email )

PO Box 6706 St Olavs plass
Oslo, N-0317

Enzo Nussio (Contact Author)

Center for Security Studies, ETH Zurich ( email )

Haldeneggsteig 4
Zurich, Zurich 8006

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