A Closer Look into Reducing Crime in Central America and Mexico

  1. Crime Prevention
  2. Criminal Justice Reform
  3. Gun Violence
  4. Juvenile Justice
  5. Policing

Key Findings

  • Crime is concentrated in a small number of high-risk places during high-risk times and generated by a small number of very risky people in Central America and Mexico.
  • One strategy is the deterrence of specific violent individuals, which decreased homicide rates from 34-64% in certain cases.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which uses psychological techniques to change unhealthy thought patterns in individuals who commit crime, is associated with a 25-52% decrease in reoffending.


In the report, “What Works in Reducing Community Violence: Spotlight on Central America and Mexico,” Kennedy and his coauthors analyzed 43 reviews of more than 2,200 studies of community violence in Central America and Mexico to determine what strategies work and how to categorize crime. The report found that crime in these regions was highly concentrated in certain places, times and carried out by a small number of individuals. The researchers determined that the method of identifying ‘hotspots’ of activity can be useful in other areas to target crime. The researchers also found two strategies that decreased crime in these areas: individual deterrence and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Deterring individuals involves targeting violent individuals and using law enforcement, social services and other community resources, while CBT attempts to address unhealthy thought patterns found in people that commit crimes.

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