Contesting Criminal Gang Governance in Medellin: Experimental Impacts of Intensive Municipal Governance on Gang Governance
We propose the first-ever randomized trial of an anti-gang program. In Medellin, Colombia, most neighborhoods are governed by criminal gangs. About 200 gangs called combos have defined territories where they resolve disputes, police, regulate markets, and “tax” businesses. We worked with the city to scale up an existing intervention. It aims to crowd combos out of their governance role and increase state legitimacy. The city chose 80 small neighborhoods where combos govern. From April 2018 until early 2020, the city is dramatically intensifying outreach and service delivery in 40 neighborhoods, including: full time staff doing routine problem-solving, dispute resolution, and directing existing infrastructure and social services. This represents a roughly 60-fold increase in staffing and 10-fold increase in service provision. Law enforcement is unchanged. We propose to evaluate impacts after 1 and 2 years, focusing on relative use of combo/state services and perceived legitimacy in both groups.