UCL Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science


Dr. Gonzalo Croci


Gonzalo got his PhD at the Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science at UCL, also he is a guest professor at Universidad ORT Uruguay. His research focuses on citizen security in Latin America, in particular researching the variables that affect homicides and the policies used to deter them. Gonzalo holds a MSc in Latin American Studies from the University of Oxford and an MPP from the Hertie School of Governance. He has consulted for the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), the International Organization for Migrations (IOM), among others.

Research project

Towards an institutional perspective for understanding and reducing homicides in Latin America


Latin America is the region with the highest homicide rate in the world. In 2017, the homicide rate of the region was 23 per 100,000 people, almost 400 percent above the world average. Recent social and economic developments have not been able to control the rise in homicides, warranting for further research. To better understand the persistence of high homicide rates, this research examines the causes of homicides in Latin America and the policies used to reduce homicides.

As a starting point, an institutional perspective is proposed as a factor influencing variations in homicides. It is argued that when institutions are perceived to be ineffective, and prone to corruption, people withdraw their support to these institutions, contributing to weakened formal and informal control mechanisms and higher rates of crime. By using regional panel data and a survey in the most violent neighbourhood of Montevideo, the relationships between homicide levels against indicators of government effectiveness and corruption are examined. Results show that although socio-economic variables, particularly inequality, are relevant for understanding variations in homicide, they fail to explain the full extent of the phenomena. The results from these studies identify that countries that were not able to maintain effective governance and control for corruption were likely to experience higher rates of homicide. To examine these findings further, the functioning of the criminal justice system, namely the police, the judiciary, and the prison system was studied. Based on a review of primary research, it was found that the criminal justice system in Latin American countries is ineffective and suffers from high levels of corruption and, consequently, is likely to be a contributing factor to the higher homicide rates in the region. The current research then examines how homicide reduction programmes are designed in Latin America. Using a sample of 89 homicide reduction programmes the research reveals many weaknesses in how these programmes were evaluated, meaning that it is difficult to draw conclusions about which types of programmes have been most effective in reducing homicides in Latin America. To overcome this obstacle, the EMMIE framework was adapted (using the five components of EMMIE: Effect, Mechanism, Moderators/context, Implementation and Economics) to evaluate homicide reduction programmes in Latin America and improve the policy formulation process. The results from this study showed that the homicide reduction programmes typically included some consideration of mechanisms and implementation processes in their design but were lacking in terms of considering their effect, moderators/context and economics.

The conclusion from the research indicates that how institutions function matters with respect to homicides. In particular, levels of government effectiveness and the presence of corruption influences criminal behaviour. Further, to date, most homicide reduction programmes in Latin America have been poorly formulated, limiting their effect in reducing serious violence. If homicides are to be reduced in the region, it is vital that policies incorporate improvements in institutional functioning and programme formulation. Finally, it is recommended that researchers should incorporate an institutional perspective to understand crime in Latin America.


  • Chainey, S., Croci, G, & Rodriguez, L. (2021) The influence of government effectiveness and corruption on the high levels of homicide in Latin America, Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(5), 172; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10050172
  • Croci, G. (2020). Colombia (BACRIMs). In The Armed Conflict Survey 2020. Routledge.
  • Croci, G. (2019). Colombia (BACRIMs). In The Armed Conflict Survey 2019. Routledge.