How American cities reduced organised crime

October 2022 – Can the experience of Ciudad Juarez and New York in reducing organised crime be of use to European cities? The level of urban violence in some American countries is far above anything we experience in Europe. Yet, European cities can find inspiration in America, where some cities have shown their “immense capacity to deliver impactful security and peace outcomes.” This is what Rachel Locke, Director of the Violence Inequality and Power Lab (VIP-Lab) at the University of San Diego (USA), told us during a web conference of our working group on organised crime

Urban violence on the rise

Rachel Locke shared data on the scale and seriousness of the challenge: in 2017, half a million people in the world were killed by homicide, against 89,000 by war1. Cities are increasingly unequal: 75% of the world’s cities have higher levels of income inequality than two decades ago. Urban violence concentrates in areas of strong disadvantage, social exclusion and poverty.

Words are important

The very language we’re using is important. There is often over-simplification, which clouds the distinction between organised and disorganised crime. Equally, there is a crossover reference between ‘gangs’ and ‘organised crime’. Yet, these definitions influence our responses,” she said. 

It is important to look at what is reported and incentivised, such as drug seizures and arrests, but also to analyse patterns. Who is benefitting and not? “There is often a lack of analysis, and we should examine what type of crime is accountable and not, because the metrics used to report on organised crime, and those that are left out, drive the action of security actors,” she added.

Promising Americain practices 

Rachel Locke presented several case studies where cities implemented preventive policies that led to a significant reduction in crime rates. Oakland and New York City (USA), Belo Horizonte (Brazil), and Ciudad Juarez (Mexico) designed and enacted wide-ranging, long-term prevention policies based on a comprehensive diagnostic. They reached out to local communities, involved residents, increased neighbourhood policing, and built large partnerships with local stakeholders. 

Their experience shows that “cities have immense capacity to deliver impactful security and peace outcomes. It is important to exchange practices that are not only repression-oriented but also multifaceted and balanced, requiring real investment over time. There is a lot of work to be done in creating a policy space for political decision makers; it is hugely important, and networks such as Efus and others are instrumental in this.”

Efus’ working group on organised crime

This web conference, titled  Organised crime and urban violence: experiences from North and South America, was held on 14 September. It was part of a series of five web conferences started in February, which examined various aspects of organised crime and how local authorities are tackling it. The themes ranged from the confiscation of assets for social use in Italy to European responses to trafficking in human beings, and how European ports are protecting themselves from the tentacles of organised crime. 

> Efus will continue the conversation on 29 November in Rotterdam, at the meeting of its working group on organised crime. The session will be open to Efus members and the public. We will shortly publish more information on how to attend. 

> The minutes and the slides of this web conference are available (members only) on Efus Network

> More information on Efus’ activities on organised crime 

Efus at the 24h conference on global organised crime
Efus moderated a panel discussion during the 24-hour online conference organised by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (#OC24 2022), on 14 October. This event gathers every year some 300 organisations and 5,000 participants from around the world. Titled Going Local: European cities and the fight against organised crime, the session featured the experiences of Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Berlin as well as an intervention by the University of Leeds on the work conducted through the IcARUS project, which Efus is leading. 
> Read the minutes of the session (members only); YouTube
> Website of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime

1 Source: World Bank