Report Highlights How Common Crime is Costing Haiti’s Poorest

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A new report finds that violence and police corruption is on the rise in Haiti’s cities and is resulting in serious economic costs that disproportionately affect poor, urban households.

The report, released by Brazilian think-tank the Igarape Institute, found that the murder rate in capital Port-au-Prince now stands at 76 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 60 murders per 100,000 in February. Residents in Port-au-Prince’s poorer neighborhoods are 40 times more likely to be murdered than those living in wealthier areas, the report concludes. Reports of police bribes are also on the rise with the average bribe costing between $16 to $30, depending on the nature of the crime.

The report surveyed 3,000 households in Port-au-Prince and six other urban centers between August 2011 and July 2012. This new study builds on the findings of Igarape’s previous report, released last March, which also found that homicides were steadily increasing in Haiti. This is in contrast to an overall decline in homicides evidenced between 2007 and 2011, according to Igarape.

InSight Crime Analysis

Igarape’s report calls attention to the ways that insecurity results in economic impacts that disproportionately affect the very poorest, an observation that can be applied not just to Haiti but across the Carribbean and Latin America. The report’s statistics on the number of physical assaults — which includes street robberies — and property damage in urban Haiti are particularly revealing. During July in Port-au-Prince, by far the most commonly reported crimes were assaults (40 cases reported by those surveyed) and property crime (99 cases reported), compared to just five homicides. So while the most striking trend observed by Igarape may be that urban violence overall is increasing inside Haiti, it appears that these non-homicide crimes are affecting the greater majority of the population.

These types of incidents — including cell phone and wallet theft, car theft, and house robberies — can end up costing poor households a sizeable amount of their income, especially if the stolen or damaged property must be replaced. On average, stolen cell phones would cost about $34 to replace, not an insignificant amount, considering that the average yearly income per person in Haiti is around $400.

These figures illustrate how common delinquency may have a far more tangible impact on the daily lives of Latin America’s poorest households, in contrast to the activities traditionally linked to organized crime, such as the international trafficking of drugs. And as Igarape’s figures show, the inability of Haiti’s security forces to protect the broader population from basic crimes, such as assaults and property damage, has caused many to lose confidence in the state. According to those surveyed who were victims of physical assaults, about 44 percent said they did not bother to tell the police. That figure is even higher for victims of property crimes: 53.5 percent. Much of this lack of confidence is linked to the obvious corruption in the Haitian police force, as the Igarape report highlights.

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