Jessica Varat

Jessica Varat (Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team - EPAF): Jessica worked at the Latin America Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C, where she specialized on politics in Bolivia. During her time at the Center, she traveled to both Peru and Bolivia, and completed a semester-long introductory Quechua class. She also coordinated projects on citizen security and the geopolitics of energy. At the time of her fellowship, Jessica was a graduate student at the Fletcher School studying Conflict Resolution and International Negotiation. After her fellowship, Jessica wrote: “I think I now see myself as someone who is open to idealism and becoming truly passionate about an issue. I am also now less afraid of being in a new situation where I might experience hardship, and have learned that with good friends, like the ones I had at EPAF, hardship becomes much less hard. I am now committed to the study of transitional justice.”



Brooms for Crime Prevention

30 Jun

Today’s blog doesn’t have much to do with my work at EPAF, but I wanted to use this as a platform to talk about a really interesting crime prevention program that I was reminded of this past weekend while in Trujillo.  A few years ago, when I was still working at the Wilson Center, I edited a book on citizen security in the Americas.  The chapter on Perú was written by Gabriel Prado and Carlos Basombrío, both experts on crime and violence in the country.  In their paper, they describe a pilot project taking place in San Martín de Porres, a district in the province of Lima.  At the time this was written (2005-06), this district had a number of gang-ridden neighborhoods and a dearth of police officers, thus creating a perception of fear and insecurity amongst citizens.

So the local police, along with neighborhood groups, decided to take inspiration from the other youth patrols around the province of Lima and set up a broom factory in the neighborhood.  They would train former gang members in how to make brooms (and other cleaning products), make the brooms during the week, and sell them in the neighborhood on the weekends.  They would receive 40% of the profits from the brooms, and the other 60% would go to the factory.  They would also have the opportunity to take classes in drug prevention, leadership, and STD prevention.   According to the study, the broom factory had a positive effect on lowering the level of gang activity. Interviews showed that the program was not only positive for crime prevention, but also for helping the community to understand the social circumstances that often propelled the youth into gang membership from the start.  If you want to know more about my study, it is all here (in Spanish): http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?topic_id=1425&categoryid=34F61C49-AF18-8F3B-9CD0E09642AB4BF1&fuseaction=topics.publications_topics.

This is all related to my visit to Trujillo, I promise. On Sunday, we happened to pass a little fair off of the main square, where various members of the police apparatus were explaining their work to those that stopped by. After a brief saunter around the fair, I came to a booth operated by a bunch of young men wearing matching vests.  They were the guys working in the broom factory and citizen patrol in Trujillo!

Brooms for youth crime prevention

I was so excited to learn that a project that I had read about a few years ago had spread throughout Perú. Of course, I was also thrilled to come face to face with the same social actors I had read about in the aforementioned work.  While they might not fit directly with the work of EPAF, they do certainly fall under the umbrella of the Advocacy Project’s mission to work with those that are underrepresented and marginalized in society.  Gang members tend to be just that, and I was glad to see evidence of successful, organic, sustainable projects spreading across the country in order to address this issue.

Posted By Jessica Varat

Posted Jun 30th, 2009

1 Comment

  • Rachel

    July 1, 2009

     

    Very interesting, Jess! Keep up the great blogging, I’m enjoying them. P.s. how can I get me a broom like that? I like the colors!

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