World Facts

Murder Rates By Country

Murder rates are rising in countries across the world, the highest being in Honduras, El Salvador, and Venezuela.

Massive Surge In Murder Rates Across The World

Murder rates have been increasing across the world over the last few years. This spike has been seen in both the developing and developed countries. For example, major cities in the US have experienced a sharp surge in murders during the first part of 2016. Cities most affected include Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas (where murder rates nearly doubled). The same is true for homicide rates in England and Wales, which have increased by 14% over the last year. While these numbers are shocking, some countries have even higher murder rates. Below is a look at the countries with the highest homicide rates, factors that contribute to murder, and measures that may prevent this from occurring.

Murder Rates By Country

Today, the world has become less safe than ever before. Increasing violence constantly threatens our well-being, with homicide being one of the scariest threats. The highest murder rates in the world can be found in Latin America and Africa.

Honduras tops the list with 84.6 murders per every 100,000 people yearly. Stated differently, this is nearly 1 out of every 1,000 people killed. San Pedro Sula, in the northwest of the country, is the most dangerous city with a homicide rate of 137.5 per 100,000. Consequently, Honduras also has the highest incidence of firearm-related deaths in the world.

El Salvador is next on the list. Here, the murder rate is 64.2 per 100,000 population annually. Estimates indicate that approximately 60% of these murders are due to gang activity. This country is still recovering from a civil war that lasted from 1979 until 1992.

The third highest murder rate is found in Venezuela. This country loses 62 people per 100,000 each year to homicide. Caracas, the capital, is the center for all of this violence. In fact, it is considered the second most murderous city in the world. With increasing political turmoil, this number has been increasing.

Lesotho, the first country outside of Latin America, is number 4 on the list. This African nation has a homicide rate of 38 per 100,000. Maseru, the capital of the country, is the 6th most murderous city in the world. Some people have contributed this to high unemployment and poverty rates.

Jamaica takes the 5th place for high murder rates. Murders here reach 36.1 per 100,000 population. Some of the most dangerous cities in this country are Kingston, Montego Bay, and Spanish Town. Jamaica also has the 5th highest firearm-related death rate in the world.

Factors Promoting High Murder Rates

Being able to identify the highest murder rates is the first step toward solving the problem. The next is to understand what factors lead to violent crimes, like homicide. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has conducted a study to identify the prominent factors that seem to result in high murder rates. Countries with the widest gaps between rich and poor are 4 times more likely to experience violent crimes than other countries. These inequitable societies are found most often in developing countries, where high poverty lacking infrastructure are commonplace. In fact, poverty and crime go hand in hand; crime drives away businesses and investors, reducing available human capital, and creating an insecure environment which in turn, leads to more poverty. Organized crime, like gangs and drug trafficking, also contribute to high murder rates. This is particularly true in countries like Jamaica, Honduras, and El Salvador. Organized crime is also more likely to be participated in by young males who, consequently, are also more likely to be a victim of murder. Drug and alcohol use are also related to high murder and poverty rates. Intoxication increases the risk of being involved (either as the guilty party or the victim) in a murder.

Countries that are experiencing political turmoil and violent conflict are also more likely to experience high murder rates. This is the case with El Salvador, which is still recovering from its civil war. When internal conflict is ongoing or not completely resolved, the violence is often seen in the form of homicide.

Preventive Measures To Be Undertaken

In order to reduce these climbing murder rates, governments must focus on preventive measures. Given its connection to poverty and social issues, crime preventive policies need to focus on more than just punishments. Without including economic and social development strategies in local policy, violent crimes are likely to continue. Additionally, these policies must be targeted at the most at-risk populations. As this article has discussed, murder rates are highest among young males and in urban areas. Successful initiatives would focus on urban-living youth and involve other community members in order to break the vicious cycle of poverty and violence.

Many scholars also point to the availability of firearms as a major contributing factor to homicide rates, saying that restricting gun access would help reduce murders. It is true that the majority of murders throughout the Americas are committed with guns. However, this point is heavily disputed. Gun restriction proponents point to the case in Brazil, where gun access was restricted and the murder rate dropped. Proponents for gun ownership point to the case in Venezuela, where gun access was denied, guns were taken away, and the murder rate increased.

In countries recovering from internal conflict and political instability, it is important to reduce violence in general. This involves restoring law and order and stabilizing the country. The conflict must be fully addressed by the government and resolved to avoid any lingering effects.

Solution To A Global Problem

The statistics are available, murder rates are increasing all over the world. Developing countries in Latin America and Africa are the most hard-hit by these fatalities, a fact that is linked to their social and economic development. Even in developed countries, like the US and England, these crimes are increasing in cities and neighborhoods with extreme social and economic inequalities. Successful preventive policies have been outlined that would focus on the biggest problem areas and at-risk communities. Ensuring effective justice systems, complete with efficient investigations and fair trials, is another solution to the homicide problem faced by the world today. The solution requires dedication on an international and local level. Governments around the world must make protecting human life a priority.

Top 25 Murder Rates By Country

RankCountryMurder Rate per 100,000
2El Salvador64.2
7Saint Kitts and Nevis33.6
8South Africa33
12Trinidad and Tobago25.9
13Saint Vincent and the Grenadines25.6
15Saint Lucia21.6
18Dominican Republic17.4
25South Sudan14.4

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