BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Youths and residents of low-income areas are the two most victimized demographics in terms of violence, muggings, thefts and gang attacks in this South American country, according to a recent survey.
“The Problem of Insecurity in the Large Urban Areas of Argentina: Influential Factors with Regard to Suffering a Crime and the Feeling of Insecurity,” conducted by the Argentine Social Debt Observatory at the Catholic University of Argentina, surveyed 2,520 individuals from January 2009 to December 2010 and covered 420 sample points in Argentina’s highest-density areas.
Two hundred survey takers covered the Buenos Aires metropolitan area and the cities of Córdoba, Salta, Mendoza, Resistencia, Paraná, Neuquén and Bahía Blanca.
From 2009 to 2010, the number of victims from the lowest-income demographic increased from 16.7% to 25.3%, said Carolina Moreno, one of the study’s lead investigators.
A total of 83% of those surveyed believed they could become victims of crime in the future.
The feeling of insecurity in the lowest-income sectors rose from 66.6% to 76.2% during the same period, Moreno said, adding the lack of a consistent police presence was the main cause.
“The relationship between a police presence and insecurity is accentuated among residents of precarious towns or settlements,” she said. “In addition, the influence of drug trafficking heightens the problem of insecurity.”
In 2010, 28.4% of the households interviewed said they were affected by drug trafficking. The situation gets worse in the most vulnerable households and sectors. Thirty-five percent of very low-income households and 48.3% of residents in economically depressed towns or settlements said they live in areas with drug-trafficking problems, compared to 21.5% of middle- to high-income households and 23.5% of those living in urban areas.
Carmen Segovia was robbed seven times at gunpoint when she lived in the San Martín neighborhood, a low-income area in metropolitan Buenos Aires.
“You’re not safe anywhere,” said Segovia, who now lives within the Buenos Aires city limits. “I was robbed in San Martín seven times, each time with a pistol. Drugs are on every corner. We neighbors signed a petition, but no one listened to us.”
The government, however, disagrees with the survey’s results.
César Albarracín, the deputy secretary of Criminal Policies for the Province of Buenos Aires in charge of security for the country’s most populous province said, “the data that really matters are those shown by the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office of the Buenos Aires Supreme Court of Justice, [which] reports a general decrease in crime.”
The Provincial Prosecutor’s Office reported that the number of robberies resulting in homicide in Buenos Aires dropped from 83 to 55 from 2009 to 2010, a 34% decrease. Armed robbery cases fell from 43,532 to 39,387 during the same period.
Rapes also decreased, going from 1,188 reports in 2009 to 1,012 in 2010, but homicides increased, jumping from 204 in 2009 to 222 in 2010.
The official data come from preparatory criminal investigations initiated daily in every judicial department in the district. The difference between these statistics and those of the Catholic University of Argentina is that the authorities didn’t break the data down by neighborhoods.
Alborracín said police have made strides in making the province of Buenos Aires safer.
“The provincial policies are geared toward preventing crime,” he said. “We have enhanced the 911 hotline, and the security cameras we’ve installed also have improved overall security.”