Cultural and Community Programs to Prevent the Increase of Criminality in Caracas' Barrios

Publisher:
Association for Sustainability in Business Inc.
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Citation:
Safe Cities Conference 2015 Book of Proceedings, 2015, pp. 19 - 41
Issue Date:
2015-07-08
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Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, is among the five most dangerous cities in the world. In a city where kidnappings, murders and criminal gangs’ shootouts are a huge part of people’s everyday life, finding innovative strategies to prevent criminality rates from rising even further becomes an important matter to address. In this vein, and acknowledging that broader scope policies to decrease crime are needed and should be developed and implemented by the government, this paper focused on small-scale actions to tackle this significant urban problem. Criminality affects all the different areas of the city; however, a large part of it is generated in barrios. Most criminal gangs operate from barrios, being their members a small portion of its population. Moreover, gang members are most often barrio residents and the majority of gang members are usually teenagers and young adults that are part of the local barrio community. However, fear has made most community members to isolate these thugs. In parallel to this, the segregated teens claim community spaces to themselves, preventing residents to use them. A qualitative approach was used to understand the participants’ perspectives on the interaction between religiosity - as a cultural construct - and the barrios’ urban space. From this, and understanding of an informal, socially constructed crime prevention strategy applied by the community was identified. The research discovered that gang members highly respect shared cultural events, such as catholic processions. During these events there are no criminal activities in the barrio because the gang members are usually involved in the religious activities. By understanding and acknowledging the impact of such cultural events and using them to strategically integrate the youth members of the gangs as part of the community during these events, the urban spaces where these cultural events change from belonging only to the thugs, at that moment belonging to the whole community. By understanding the importance of religiosity as one of the most important Venezuelan cultural constructs, collaborative programs between the Catholic Church, community members, and local government can developed to reach out to young kids and teenagers to prevent them joining the criminal gangs.
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