Social Inclusion from Below: Street Gangs and Their Possible Effects on Declining Homicide Rates in Ecuador

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Since 2007, the Ecuadorian approach to crime control has emphasized efforts to reach higher levels of social control based on policies of social inclusion and innovations in criminal justice and police reform. One innovative aspect of this approach was the decision to legalize a number of street gangs in 2007.

The government claims the success of these policies can be seen in homicide rates that have fallen from 15.35 per 100,000 in 2011 to 5 per 100,000 in 2017. However, little is understood about the factors and their combination that have produced this outcome.

The Interamerican Development Bank explored this phenomenon in a research project focusing on the impact of street gangs involved in processes of social inclusion on violence reduction. Founding suggested that legalization helped reduce violence and criminality drastically while providing a space, both culturally and legally, to transform the social capital of the gang into effective vehicles of behavioural change.

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