Crime and violence prevention efforts are best spearheaded at the local level. And ICMA has developed a participatory approach that can be adapted by cities worldwide.
14 November 2016
ICMA has implemented municipal crime and violence prevention programs in Central America and Mexico since 2009. Our work was launched with a regional program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) called Municipal Partnerships for Violence Prevention in Central America and the Dominican Republic. Known by the Spanish acronym AMUPREV, the program focuses on promoting the role of local governments and is designed to build the capacity of local stakeholders to coordinate and carry out crime and violence prevention activities at the local level.
At the time the program began, levels of violence in the region had already climbed to astronomical proportions, and the number of murders exceeded casualties in war zones. In Honduras, for example, murders per 100,000 people reached 86.5 in 2011.1 Since then, the rate has gone down in some cities, although San Pedro Sula, a city in northern Honduras that is considered the country’s economic hub, is still one of the world’s most violent, with a homicide rate of 111 per 100,000.
In Central America and Mexico, policing was (and is) a national rather than a local responsibility. At the time, policing was reactionary (the so-called “iron fist approach”) and little or no attention was being paid by the police to crime prevention, which really fell mostly within the purview of nongovernmental organizations (including faith-based entities) working in vulnerable communities.
ICMA promoted a partnership between three municipalities in Guatemala and the city of Stockton, California, under the AMUPREV Program in the interest of sharing Stockton’s successful experience in putting together a multi-stakeholder coalition to address and prevent crime. Stockton’s initiative, called the Marshall Plan, is similar to the MPVC model in that it brings together representatives from the city, the criminal justice system, faith-based and nonprofit organizations, the private sector, and neighborhoods to address crime–from stopping violence to preventing it, addressing trauma, reclaiming neighborhoods, and creating a fair, humane, and evidence-based system. The city’s role is as a direct service provider, convener and advocate/support organization.
Crime prevention was not typically viewed as a local government function. Local governments were seen as just another actor, if they were engaged at all, providing support to the elderly, women, and children through community affairs offices or social programs in afflicted communities. Strategies to reduce risk were notably absent, and if these organizations did try to fight crime, it was by funding or advocating for more hardware for law enforcement, such as cameras for the police departments, or more patrols and operatives to sweep whole neighborhoods to arrest gang members and perpetrators of crimes.
Based on successful practices in the United States, ICMA knew that local governments should be the drivers for crime and violence prevention initiatives and began designing an approach for locally initiated crime prevention committees involving multiple stakeholders. ICMA has now applied this approach or model directly in 26 municipalities in Central America and Mexico. The model consists of creating entities that are led by the municipal mayor and incorporate municipal and national government staff, community and faith-based organizations, private-sector and educational sector representatives, and police to better coordinate and leverage crime and violence prevention initiatives.
We developed a toolkit and identified eight steps to creating what we called Municipal Violence Prevention Committees (MVPCs). We have refined the steps along the way. Nonetheless, they remain the basic building blocks to successfully creating an entity that can bring the community together to take steps to improve quality of life and citizen security. What’s important to understand is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But we identified some common factors of success at each stage of the process. Even though we have applied these in Central America and Mexico, they are just as relevant to cities around the world that are struggling to collaborate more effectively and employ resources more efficiently to provide strategic services to vulnerable and at-risk populations.
Step 1: Obtain the support of municipal authorities
Step 2: Identify local leaders and institutions to participate
Step 3: Formally launch the committee
Step 4: Legalize the committee
Step. 5: Provide training and technical assistance
Step 6: Assess the current crime and violence situation in the municipality
Step 7: Develop a strategic plan and annual work plans with member participation
Step 8: Carry out the plans and monitor progress
ICMA’s experience is that these committees are challenging, and election transitions are always difficult, but they have made a real difference. MVPCs have been instrumental in helping to identify and support strategic services and opportunities to reduce violence risk factors in communities throughout Central America and in selected cities in Mexico.
1 Data from the National Violence Observatory, an academic research institution based in Honduras, cited in the Honduras 2016 Crime & Safety Report issued by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Accessed November 14, 2016.
to rate this
Sign in to comment
City of Stockton, CA
Follow us @ICMA
411 N. Central Ave. Suite 400Phoenix, AZ 85004P: 888.496.0944F: 813.704.4393
Copyright @ 2014, Alliance for Innovation