Management, investment, technology, training and decision are some important factors that influence the intention to improve the safety of cities.
by Alberto Jorge Álvarez*
For years, Latin America has been characterized by having the highest homicide rates on the planet, several times higher than those of the European continent. With only 8% of the world's population, this region accounts for 33% of homicides and here are 46 of the 50 most violent and unsafe cities on the planet.
The causes of this scenario are mainly: deficient number of police, poverty, lack of education, economic inequality, lack of work and opportunities, deficit of public policies, political disinterest, failures of the judicial system, impunity, corruption, marginalization, gangs, drug trafficking and organized crime or perhaps a little of all. There are those who say that not enough resources are allocated to security, but the percentage of GDP allocated is higher than that of many safer countries.
On the other hand, the pandemic accentuated this situation that Latin America is experiencing, being the most affected developing region in the world and increasing poverty by 10%.
At the end of 2020, around 209 million people were in poverty, which represents 32% of the population of Latin America. This corroborates, what has been said so far, since with only 8% of the world's population, in 2020 there were 19% of infections and 28% of deaths from Covid-19.
Some researchers say that the focus of the problem is the crisis of the education system and the millions of young people (children) between 14 and 28 years old who do not study or work. This represents a great opportunity to change course and integrate them and develop training programs through scholarships to mitigate the consequences of this situation.
For their part, several organizations and professionals in the field say that the solution to the problem of insecurity is through joint work between governments, law enforcement, associations and the community. The collaboration and joint work of all is necessary to find a solution tailored to the needs of the region.
But then, how do we improve security indexes in Latin America?: One of the most effective measures is the use of technology, but there is another question: are we trained in Latin America to use the latest technologies and is there a political decision to do so?
If we talk about citizen or public security we find many technologies that can help prevent crime; new video surveillance cameras, artificial intelligence and big data systems, gunshot detectors, drones, patent readers, panic buttons integrated with communication systems, mobile apps, video analytics, facial recognition and behavioral patterns among many others. However, all this technology needs several key factors such as investment, regulations, implementation, training, operation and maintenance.
Many governments say they don't have the money to afford the cost of these technologies, but what is the cost of continuing to put citizens' lives at risk? Keep in mind that Latin America lacks not only studies in security technologies, but that most countries have very few standards in this regard and the few that do do not have trained personnel to properly implement and audit them.
Governments, with the help of educational institutions and associations, must generate these standards, good practices and certifications for products, companies, technicians and professionals thus ensuring the quality, audit and certification of facilities.
Finally, it is very important that the personnel who are going to operate these technologies are certified and trained to be able to obtain the maximum benefits from the systems, for that, there are entities such as ALAS, and more than anything it is of the utmost importance that the necessary funds are allocated for the maintenance of these; it is unfortunate to see how state-of-the-art systems stop working soon and no one repairs them because the government of the day did not allocate the necessary funds.
In conclusion, Latin America is a region with significant economic potential in its different countries and also as a single regional nucleus, but it needs to begin to rethink itself to assume the challenges and improve security conditions. The possibility of improvement is immense, and this must be aimed at in an integral way to turn Latin America into a safe territory, restore the confidence to invest in it and improve competitiveness.
* Alberto Jorge Alvarez, CEO Latin American Security Association – ALAS.