About Our Lab

Criminal violence has become endemic in the developing world, where 9 out of every 10 deaths occur in non-conflict or non-war settings. The failure of governments to ensure public security, especially in settings of poverty, leads to a law and order vacuum that gangs and criminal organization readily fill. Criminal governance often takes root in places where basic public institutions and systems of justice are absent, such as urban slums, preying on the poor and giving rise to a vicious cycle of lawlessness and persistent poverty. Under such conditions, criminal organizations frequently become the community’s de facto rulers, providing their own brand of public services, including security.

Established in 2010 and led by Professor Beatriz Magaloni, a political scientist, the Poverty, Violence and Governance Lab is dedicated to the study of the causes and consequences of criminal violence in the developing world and to the design and evaluation of interventions that reduce crime and improve security in areas of weak or non-existent governance. Applying the tools and methods of scientific research to gain insights and with a focus on Latin America, our Lab gathers, geo-references and analyzes data on criminal violence, sharing knowledge with government agencies, civil society organization and the academic community. We also evaluate  policy innovations designed to improve law enforcement practices, strengthen local governance and provide opportunities for at-risk youth, with the objective of understanding what works and what doesn’t.

An effective criminal justice system is a prerequisite for upholding the rule of law, while, conversely, the impunity of perpetrators can actually contribute to the perpetration of more homicides.
Global Study on Homicide 2013, UNODC

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