Mapping Crime and Violence
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At a basic level, the Central American region is broadly divided between the northern triangle of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador – where the highest homicide rates are concentrated – and the southern section of the isthmus, with Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama recording comparatively lower rates. Significant internal variations exist within each country, however, emphasising the importance of the local context.
Each case shows divergent trends over the past decade. Honduras stands out due to the unrelenting rise in homicides rates, which at 85.5 per 100,000 in 2012 was the highest rate in the world of cases where data is available. This contrasts to the case of Costa Rica, which has remained fairly stable over this period.
There exists an overriding focus on homicide rates in discourse on the subject, both in analysis and in media coverage. While clearly a key factor, public security is far broader than this, and a broader perspective helps to paint a much more complete picture, therefore enabling a fuller understanding of each situation. Figures related to crimes against physical integrity and sexual freedom, for example, highlight this need for a broader approach, including a wider array of indicators in debates and analysis on the subject.
These figures emphasise the daily impact that insecurity has for the local population living in the Central American region.
Figures representing violence against women across the region are shocking, with rates of intra-family violence – which overwhelmingly affect women - telling of complex social realities and structural forms of violence. The formidable nature of these figures and the task at hand is further amplified when the latent nature of the phenomenon is taken into account: the quantity of reports is just the tip of the iceberg, and it is estimated that large numbers of cases go unreported.
Insecurity is an issue that transcends guns, gangs and drug-related violence, with figures for traffic fatalities as high as 21.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, it emphasises the importance of examining public security issues through a broad lens.