Latin America and the Caribbean is considered to be the most violent region in the world. Despite widespread gains in education, poverty reduction, and living standards, Latin American countries continue to have disproportionately high rates of violent crime. Some may find this puzzling, since many of these countries have particularly powerful military and police forces. This then raises the question: Why haven't new policing strategies in the region had any impact? Is Latin America in a 'Security Trap'?
Police performance is vital in consolidated democracies, but even more so in post-transition countries where public support for the regime is not yet firmly established. In many Latin American countries, as Mark Ungar and others have pointed out, law enforcement institutions had to be reformed not only to improve the capacity of the emerging democratic states but, more importantly, to prevent a return to the oppressive practices of the authoritarian past (Ungar 2011).