Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro

The murder rate in Colombian capital Bogota has fallen to its lowest point in 27 years, following a citywide ban on carrying guns in public.

Homicides in the Colombian capital have dropped by 21 percent this year, with 817 murders between January and August, compared to 1,021 murders in the same period in 2011. That equates to a murder rate of 16.1 per 100,000 people for 2012, making Bogota less violent than Chicago, whose rate is 19 per 100,000.

According to BBC Mundo, Bogota’s murder rate stood at 22 per 100,000 people before Mayor Gustavo Petro's administration implemented a three-month ban on guns in public places in February 2012. The ban has since been extended twice, most recently in August, for another three months. Petro stated that the gun restriction had reduced the number of deaths caused by firearms by 58 percent.

In an interview with the BBC before the gun ban went into effect, Petro’s chief of staff estimated that about 60 percent of Bogota murders involved firearms.

InSight Crime Analysis

Most Latin American countries far exceed the global average for the proportion of murders committed with firearms, according to an August report by the Small Arms Survey. The survey found that firearms were involved in 60 percent of murders throughout the region, compared to a global average of 42 percent, with El Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela among the worst afflicted.

If Bogota's gun restriction policy is indeed causing the capital's dramatic fall in homicides, it could provide a model for other cities attempting to curb their murder rates.

However, a gun ban on its own does not necessarily lead a drop in violence, as evidenced by Medellin. Colombia's second largest city imposed a year-long ban on guns in January, yet has seen violence rage in certain areas as rival gangs battle for control over key neighborhoods. The dynamics of a city's criminal underworld, and whether or not it is a crucial point in the drug trade, also play a vital role in determining violence levels.

Investigations

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