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Reducing Urban Violence and Improving Youth Outcomes in the Americas

Charu Chaturvedi

Thirty leaders from Latin American and Caribbean countries met to discuss how to improve safety, reduce violence, and ultimately better the lives of young people living in cities.

Executive Summary

The world today has the largest population of young people in history, yet tragically, far too many of these youth are unlikely to live past the age of 30. Worldwide, youth aged 15 to 29 make up more than 40 percent of all homicides, while millions more fall victim to nonfatal violent crimes.

Three organizations—the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the University of Chicago Urban Labs, and the World Bank—convened approximately 30 leaders in Chicago from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, and other Latin American and Caribbean countries and the United States working on the front lines of urban youth violence prevention. They discussed promising ways to strengthen urban public safety and improve the lives of youth in cities throughout the Americas.

The action tour explored the importance of local context and the built environment to foster safer neighborhoods, how big data can shape safer cities, how to scale programs that work, and how to engage older youth. Participants also examined how violence prevention fits into a resilient cities agenda and what twenty-first-century policing and security should look like.

Participants identified several themes crucial to informing their existing efforts and shaping future initiatives

  • Create cross-sector partnerships. Cross-sector partnerships are vital to building sustainable violence prevention programs.
  • Tailor ideas to local contexts. Leaders need to tailor promising ideas to the local context, history, culture, and political system of each city, while also harnessing the power of best practices that transcend context.
  • Maintain long-term continuity. Leaders must be mindful that programs can take many years to produce results.
  • Develop detailed frameworks for community policing. Leaders interested in supporting community policing programs need detailed frameworks to guide them and their law enforcement partners.
  • Fully engage the youth being served. It is essential to involve youth in all facets of urban violence prevention, from program design and research design to implementation.

Participants agreed that relationships across different cities that often struggle with similar challenges can provide a framework for collaboration and sharing of best practices. Such relationships can help policymakers and practitioners move beyond ad hoc, local initiatives to truly begin to make widespread, sustainable progress and help any global city grappling with these issues. This report serves as a summary of their findings.