A Mexican NGO that focuses on violence reduction argued this week that laws which restrict gun ownership do almost nothing to curb homicide rates around the world.
The Citizens' Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice made this point during a press conference in which it unveiled its yearly list of the most violent cities around the globe.
"In countries where there are few restrictions on weapons ownership, there is much less violence than in countries where prohibitions and restrictions on gun ownership prevail," said Citizen Council's president Jose Antonio Ortega. "Prohibitions [on gun ownership] do not affect violent criminals who, ultimately, have a way of getting their hands on weapons. They only disarm innocent people and leave them at the mercy of criminals," Ortega added in a room packed with journalists.
This may sound like an extreme argument for some Americans, and possibly not a very palatable one given the recent spate of shootings at schools and shopping malls in the U.S. But in Mexico, which just has one legal gun shop in the whole country but has suffered through more than 60,000 drug-related killings over the past six years, the argument seems to make some sense.
The Citizens' Council said on Thursday that police units that actually investigate crimes and judicial systems that make sure that criminals are held accountable for their acts are the real keys to violence reduction all over the world.
In many countries around the world police routinely fail to investigate homicides. In Mexico, Honduras and Venezuela, for example, more than 90 percent of murders are not prosecuted.
The Citizens' Council points to the border city of Ciudad Juarez as an example. The organization said that a radical overhaul of the police system in this city did more to curb violence there than Mexico's strict gun ownership laws or social programs implemented by Mexican president Felipe Calderon, which included sports clinics for at-risk youth.
The homicide rate in Ciudad Juarez dropped by half from 2010 to 2012. As a result, Juarez, which had the world's highest homicide rate two years ago, placed 17th in this most recent ranking.
For its list of the most violent cities in the world, the Citizens' Council compared homicide data gathered by local officials for the 2012 year. So which are the most violent? Here are the top ten -- all in Latin America.
|San Pedro Sula, Honduras|
The commercial capital of Honduras has roughly 170 murders per every 100,000 residents. This is more than three times higher than the murder rate in New Orleans, which is the most violent city in the United States, with 56 murders per 100,000 residents.
The Citizens' Council for Public Security said on Thursday that the murder rate for San Pedro was based on figures for 2011, because Honduran officials did not want to reveal information for 2012, fearing that this type of information would damage the city's reputation.
A turf war between cartels has led to a steep rise in Acapulco's murder rate over the past three years. In 2012, this former vacation spot for global celebrities registered a whopping 142 murders per every 100,000 residents. Jose Antonio Ortega from the Citizens' Council said that local officials have allowed Acapulco's security problem to fester by not prosecuting criminals.
It seems that the generous social programs implemented in this city by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have done little to curb the murder rate in Caracas. Venezuela's capital city made the "top 10" list for the third straight year with 118 homicides per every 100,000 residents. Caracas, which has more than three million residents, is by far the largest city in this top 10 list.
With 101 murders per every 100,000 residents, the capital city of Honduras is rising in the most violent city rankings. Much of the violence stems from conflicts between local gangs, like the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18.
Torreón, a desert city in the north of Mexico, is currently at the epicenter of a turf war between the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Los Zetas drug gang. In 2012, it had 94 murders per every 100,000 residents.
This medium sized city in northeastern Brazil had 85 murders per every 100,000 residents in 2012.
In the '90s Cali was the hub of the powerful Cali cartel, which controlled a significant portion of the global cocaine trade. The Colombian government broke this cartel up more than a decade ago, but since then, smaller gangs have been fighting for their share of the drug market. The inappropriate use of force by law enforcement officers also leads to violence. In the image to the right, a man looks at photographs of "victimas del estado," or victims of state security forces.
|Nuevo Laredo, Mexico|
This border town is right in the middle of a major drug trafficking route that cartels often fight over for control. In the image to the right, Nuevo Laredo officials confiscate a cocaine shipment headed to the U.S. In 2012, the city had 72 murders for every 100,000 residents.
A prison riot in this Venezuelan city led to the deaths of more than 50 inmates in January. As news broke out about the situation inside the local prison, angry relatives of the inmates took their frustration out on local police (see picture). In 2012, Barquisimeto had 71 murders per every 100,000 residents.
|João Pessoa, Brazil|
It is surrounded by idyllic beaches in northeastern Brazil, but violence has been rising in this coastal city graced by 17th century colonial buildings. In 2012, Joao Pessoa had 71 murders per every 100,000 residents.