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Pioneering Data Initiative Aims to Measure Public Safety Conditions

Determining the murder rate for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean is not an easy task. There are several sources that collect such data, from Interior Ministries to police and health departments, and each one uses a different methodology. As a result, murder rates can vary widely—the difference can be as high as 50 percent depending on the source and year.

Seeking to end such discrepancies and help the region better understand its public safety conditions and needs, the IDB launched the first Regional System of Standardized Indicators of Citizen Security and Violence Prevention (RIC) in 2008.

This pioneering crime data initiative has connected as many as 160 different institutions in 17 countries and two capitals in the region. The program has enabled different institutions to discuss and agree on how they will measure and compile crime and other statistics related to citizen security, following the recommendations and good practices of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Organization of American States.

To date, 22 indicators, including murder and victimization rates, have been standardized. By being able to compare reliable data, policymakers in a country can better understand how crime and violence affect the security situation—particularly issues related to drug trafficking. Moreover, reliable and standardized data allow countries to identify successful interventions and policies, as well as those that have failed, which can be equally useful and important for policy development.

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Countries participating in the initiative areArgentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Honduras, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Jamaica, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, and the capital cities of Ecuador (Quito) and Argentina (Buenos Aires). Discussions are under way for Barbados, Brazil, Belize, and Guatemala to also join.

Thanks to the standardized data collected, it is possible to compare reliable information on critical public safety measures such as murder rates, as indicated in the infographic.