Tackling urban crime in Medellin

Felipe Montoya Pino

August 2017


In the first half of the 1990s, Medellin experienced the highest peak of violence and insecurity in its history. Medellin’s homicide rate was four times the national homicide rate of Colombia and almost 40 times the United Nations definition of epidemic violence (Maclean, 2014). The multiple forms of violence that converged in the city led to the existence of what Granda and Ramirez (2001) described as a generation and a “city without future”.

Against all odds, the city achieved a transformation that now portrays it as a world example of urban development and social resilience. However, this transformation is not free from challenges. 

The policy question addressed in this report is how to effectively tackle urban crime in Medellin, guaranteeing sustained security indicators. To do this, it will mainly draw upon: 1) evidence from social research on urban violence in Medellin; 2) publicly available interviews and documents such as the city’s Integral Plan on Security and Coexistence (PISC), official data from the Municipality’s Secretary of Security and the Medellin Cómo Vamos Program (MCV); 3) the latest victimization survey published by the National Department of Statistics (DANE); and 4) my personal experience as chief of staff to the mayor of Medellin from 2012 to 2015.