Violence Prevention Efforts in Cali, Colombia: An Epidemiologic Approach to Effectively Reducing Homicide Deaths

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Cali, the third largest city in Colombia, continually has one of the highest homicide rates in the country, last reported at 85.74 per 100,000 in 2013. Albeit still high, this is a considerable improvement from the 1992 rate of 126 per 100,000, when newly-elected mayor Dr. Rodrigo Guerrero Velasco recognized something needed to be done. He created the Programa para el Desarrollo, la Seguridad y la Paz (DESEPAZ) (Program for Development, Security, and Peace), with objectives including democratic institution strengthening, empowerment of the community, a priority needs assessment, and brainstorming strategies to promote peaceful conflict resolution.

To better assess the magnitude and characterize the nature of the problem, Dr. Guerrero instituted a fatal injury surveillance system. Data from these initiatives revealed contextual patterns of violence related to general social disorder, versus the common assumption that drug cartels were to blame, prompting multiple regulations, including weekend curfews, alcohol sales restrictions, intermittent firearm bans, and streetlight installation. These efforts had a dramatic effect on deaths from gun violence, with a precipitous drop of 35% in just months.

However, due to Colombian mayoral laws, Dr. Guerrero could not stay in office for a consecutive second term. His replacements chose to abandon many of his initiatives, leading to rising homicide rates, and two successive years as Colombia’s most violent city. Luckily, Dr. Guerrero was elected into office for a second term in 2011, with renewed goals including targeting the military’s arms sales, mainly through Military Industry (INDUMIL) and Arms Trade Control Department (DCCA) due to their exclusive control over manufacturing and sales in Colombia, and working to reduce youth gang violence through community outreach programs.

It is essential to continue funding and providing governmental support for these programs and initiatives, even after Dr. Guerrero’s second mayoral term ends. Cali and Bogota provide shining examples of the benefits a public health perspective can have on improving the quality of life of a population, and its continued application must be supported.

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2 Responses to “Violence Prevention Efforts in Cali, Colombia: An Epidemiologic Approach to Effectively Reducing Homicide Deaths”

  1. juliahmoon Says:

    I think this is very powerful evidence for the value of actionable data! With evidence as to the success of focused programming, Colombia should act as an example to the international community. Violence reduction is difficult for all urban environments and Dr. Guerreros experience, and dedication to his community, is admirable. I hope that the focus on data collection related to violence can extend into other countries which may be suffering from inappropriately allocated bad press due to assumptions of drug related violence. Mexico and Colombia have both been victims of media coverage shining a bad light and negatively impacting tourism. Data of this sort, implemented throughout Colombia and Mexico, and further analyzed, may function to not only change violence rates and violence prevention, but improve the economic future of these countries.

  2. aabhasin Says:

    In literature and in practice, there is substantial disagreement on the specific strategies can be most effective to address the issue of gun-related homicides in young adults. Several strategies and policies have been proposed for reducing homicide in youth from guns and firearms like limiting gun availability, background checks etc. However, at federal and state levels, across several countries there are no studies/research/evidence that have assessed the effectiveness of the existing proposed interventions.

    Active and passive surveillance research studies over different time periods have helped to combat many medical and social ills of the society and decrease mortality. The Colombo example of the surveillance study further bolsters this fact. Likewise, it becomes all the more imperative to have such research study designs to actively inspect the occurrence of injuries in youth and their triggers and how the information can be used meaningfully to address the issue. An injury surveillance study in collaboration at the federal and state level in other countries also will help to contain this gun violence problem.

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