Around the world, people have been forced into quarantine because of coronavirus spread, and this includes gangs and communities afflicted by gangs. The result has been a downturn in gang violence or at the very least a drop in deaths due to previously gang violence-provoked deaths. A record was just broken in El Salvador in March 2020, in which the country finally went two full days without recording a single homicide. For many years on end, El Salvador has led the globe in per-capita killings, and fortunately, their homicides fell from 114 in February to 65 in March. Gangs are still active in El Salvador however, and gang members are now enforcing quarantines and social distancing through their own methods with threats and baseball bats. The gangs have been warning citizens, “If you go out, it better be only to the store, and you better be wearing a mask.”
Other Latin American countries as well as in the Caribbean have seen analogous reductions in homicides since lockdown and quarantine orders have been issued. A one-month ceasefire was ordered by guerrilla leaders in Colombia and has caused homicides to fall by half during their nationwide quarantine. In Guatemala and Honduras, the homicide rates have fallen by nearly a third, mostly because there are fewer people on the streets to intimidate, threaten, or kill.
In Cape Town, South Africa, there has also been a noticeable decline in gang violence. Gang leaders, who are seen as being “at the top of the food chain” are running out of food and asking for help. Andie Steele-Smith is a pastor in Cape Town who has helped mediate between gangs and is now also helping provide food for them. Currently, in a surprise, rival gangs are pairing up to help distribute food to citizens around town. Steele-Smith claims it is “insane” the gangs are working together. Local authorities and the mayor, on the other hand, are not quite as in awe, and will be neither forgiving of the gangs nor will exonerate them for their past violence and destruction of the communities. Many skeptics around the world in gang-ravaged areas do not have faith the peace will last after the days of coronavirus have passed.