In all Central American countries we witness a struggle to define, interpret and classify types of violence, delinquency, crime and (in)security. Although this struggle has highly relevant political and social implications, it has not been analyzed systematically. This article evaluates the state of the art and, based on methodological considerations, emphasizes the contribution of qualitative research on the local level in contrast to quantitative studies on the national or regional level. In a second step, using the discourse on Central American youth gangs as an example, the authors show that moral panic and repressive criminal policies are not direct consequences of the violence phenomena per se. Rather, the perception of and the reactions to insecurity and violence are based on social discourses about these phenomena.
EconStor: OA server of the German National Library of Economics - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics