Residents of Latin America and the Caribbean were the least likely among all global regions last year to feel secure in their communities. In 2013, the region scored a 56 (on a scale from 0 to 100) on Gallup’s Law and Order Index, which is based on confidence in local police, feelings of personal safety, and self-reported incidence of theft. Residents of Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the U.S. and Canada were the most likely to feel secure.
Some Latin American countries are showing strong security improvements, however, most notably Ecuador, which has shown the greatest improvement in how secure citizens feel in their communities since the last survey, four years ago.
Overall, the relatively poor personal security situation in Latin America and the Caribbean has not significantly improved over the past five years. In contrast, Law and Order Index scores have improved among residents of the former Soviet Union, a region that had a similarly low score as Latin America and the Caribbean in 2009. Meanwhile, people’s sense of personal security has deteriorated in the Middle East/North Africa region, as well as in South Asia.
Eight out of 10 countries with the highest homicide rates are located in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the region accounting for 36% of the world’s homicides in 2012, according to a United Nations report. Furthermore, the Americas have overtaken Africa — where index scores are only slightly higher — as the region with the most murders, largely because of a surge in organized crime.
Venezuela’s index score of 41 is the worst not only in the region, but also in the world. In 2013, just 19% of Venezuelan adults said they felt safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live. Furthermore, just 26% of Venezuelans expressed confidence in the local police and 22% reported that money had been stolen from them or another household member in the last 12 months. The ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela has contributed to a surging murder rate, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. In 2012, Venezuela had the second-highest murder rate in the world after Honduras, at 53.7 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Nicaragua, Panama, Chile and Ecuador have the highest index scores in the region, and each has seen sizable increases since 2009. The biggest jump was in Ecuador, where all three indicators (number of thefts, perceived security, and confidence in the police) improved considerably.
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa attributes his administration’s success in fighting crime to a large investment in new police at both the national local levels, the establishment of a 911 emergency response system, the installation of thousands of video cameras and stricter gun control laws.
Credit: Gallop Poll