Studies outline cost of crime in Latin America

Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:58am EST
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By Daniel Bases

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crime doesn't pay is a familiar adage. But it certainly costs.

A series of original studies commissioned by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) quantify the costs of crime and violence in Latin America and the Caribbean using a combination of crime, health and economic statistics to come to fresh conclusions.

In Brazil, one study found people pay an extra $13 billion to gain a sense of security alone, while in Uruguay economic activity suffers a negative impact of more than 3.0 percent of gross domestic product, while long-term generational impacts are found on the health of babies born to mothers who suffer from physical violence.

"People pay for a sense of security," said David Vetter, lead author of a study examining the impact on residential property values in Brazil's metropolitan areas of insecurity resulting from crime.

"There are a lot more people who are afraid of crime rather than are victims of crime," Vetter told Reuters in a telephone interview.

A common theme running through the eight research papers presented is that women, children and families in general are affected most by crime and violence.

The IDB points out that the region suffers from some of the world's highest homicide rates and is where 20 of the world's most violent cities are located.

However, International Monetary Fund projections show Latin America and the Caribbean region's economic growth of 3.6 percent this year is more than double the 1.4 percent forecast for advanced economies and above the 3.5 percent predicted for the world overall. That kind of growth masks somewhat the impact of crime and violence on the economies in the region.   Continued...

Police officers and forensic technicians work at a crime scene where two people were killed, at a neighborhood in Monterrey January 24, 2013. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril