The security situation is improving in several Latin American countries, although the region has remained at the bottom of the security index drawn up by Gallup. In Gallup’s 2014 Law & Order Index, Chile scored 68, higher than the 66 it scored in 2013.
The same was true for Peru, Jamaica, Bolivia and Ecuador, some of which improved their index score by as many as four points in the space of one year. The higher the score, the higher the proportion of the population that reports feeling safe. In other words, greater numbers of people are saying that they feeling safe. Lower scores suggest conditions and public perceptions that could hurt development.
In 2014, all countries in the region had index scores below the global average of 69. The latest data confirms that some efforts are underway in at least some countries in the region to instill a sense of safety among citizens.
But things are worsening in Nicaragua and Panama, whose index score decreased to 59 in 2014 from 67 the year before. What is disappointing is that even Brazil and Paraguay are on the list of countries where residents are least likely to feel safe.
The US, UK and Canada do not figure in the list of countries where people are “most likely to feel safe”, although this does not mean that people in these countries are not feeling safe. Topping the “most likely to feel safe” index are Hong Kong and Singapore.
Nevertheless, Gallup’s Law and Order Index shows that residents of the region are the least likely in the world to feel secure in their communities.
Venezuela’s index score of 42 was the worst in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2014, and nearly the worst in the world. Only Liberians, who were surveyed at the outset of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, scored lower, with an index of 40.
The 22% of Venezuelan adults who said they felt safe walking alone at night were notably the lowest in the world. The economically troubled country, which has the second-highest murder rate in the world after Honduras, has ranked at or near the bottom of the “least safe” list since 2009.
Gallup’s index is based on responses to three questions it poses to people: confidence in their local police, feelings of personal safety and self-reported incidence of theft.
High crime rates can suppress social cohesion and negatively affect economic performance. But Gallup says “this is particularly true in places such as Latin America, where there has been progress in other areas of development, including poverty reduction.”
The results, according to Gallup, are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted throughout 2014 in 141 countries.