Law Enforcement and Perverse Effects: The Evolution of the Central American Maras

Crime and law enforcement are often entwined in a co-evolutionary process by which the actions of one prompt behavioral changes by the other that demand new strategies from the initial actor. While this dynamic is often recognized and anticipated by both law enforcement and criminal groups, it frequently yields perverse effects – unintended (and generally unforeseen) outcomes that exacerbate the very issue they were deployed to remedy (or create new problems). The evolution of the Central American youth gangs known as the maras provides a highly informative example of this phenomenon.

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