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Social Experimentation and Evaluation for Better Policing

Social experimentation and evaluation is being increasingly used for broadening the evidence base of public policy. However, policing and crime prevention are not areas area that have benefited much from this trend in Latin America, and leading examples of what is possible may be useful for stimulating this agenda. I will present results from two randomized evaluations of police training programs in Argentina and Colombia and an ongoing experimental evaluation of a hotspots program in the second largest municipality in Caracas, Venezuela.

One of the main challenges for promoting evidence-based decision making to reduce violence is to create the demand for scientific knowledge by policymakers. Above and beyond the estimated impacts from the three evaluations discussed here, the process by which each of these projects came to be leaves significant lessons for advancing this agenda in the region and which has shaped efforts led by CAF – Development Bank of Latin America – to catalyze evaluation efforts in violence reduction and other programs. Specifically, an evaluation project is much more likely to get off the ground and be supported into later phases by the authorities when the policymaker's questions or concerns are at the center of the research effort, and when the process of experimentation and evaluation is rightly seen as a management tool and not as an externally imposed condition or requirement.