Vienna. 06 October 2011. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has released its first Global Study on Homicide. The Study shows that young men, particularly in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and southern and central Africa, are at most risk from intentional homicide but that women are at highest risk from murder due to domestic violence. There is evidence of rising homicide rates in Central America and the Caribbean, which are “near crisis point”, according to the Study.
Firearms are behind rising murder rates in those two regions, where almost three quarters of all homicides are committed with guns, compared to 21 per cent in Europe. Men face a much higher risk of violent death (11.9 per 100,000) than women (2.6 per 100,000), although there are variations between countries and regions. In countries with high murder rates, especially involving firearms, such as in Central America, 1 in 50 males aged 20 will be killed before they reach the age of 31 – several hundred times higher than in some parts of Asia.
Worldwide, 468,000 homicides occurred in 2010. Some 36 per cent of all homicides take place in Africa, 31 per cent in the Americas, 27 per cent in Asia, 5 percent in Europe, and 1 per cent in Oceania.
Clear link between crime and development
The Study also establishes a clear link between crime and development. Countries with wide income disparities are 4 times more likely to be afflicted by violent crime than more equitable societies, it says. Conversely, economic growth seems to stem that tide, as the past 15 years in South America have shown.
Chronic crime is both a major cause and result of poverty, insecurity and under-development.
Crime drives away business, erodes human capital and destabilizes society. Targeted actions are needed. “To achieve the Millennium Development Goals, crime prevention policies should be combined with economic and social development and democratic governance based on the rule of law,” said Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director.
According to the Study, sudden dips in the economy can drive up homicide rates. In selected countries, more murders occurred during the financial crisis of 2008/09, coinciding with declining gross domestic product (GDP), higher consumer price index and more unemployment.
Firearms, youth crime and organized crime
In 2010, 42 per cent of homicides were committed with firearms (Americas: 74 per cent, Europe: 21 per cent). Gun crime is driving violent crime in Central America and the Caribbean – the only region where the evidence points to rising homicide rates. “It is crucial that measures to prevent crime should include policies towards the ratification and implementation of the Firearms Protocol,” said Mr. Fedotov. He stressed that although 89 States were parties to the Protocol, which supplements the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, many more countries could accede to that legal instrument and his Office stood ready to help them.
“Domestic policies in furtherance of the Protocol’s provision can help avoid the diversion of firearms to fuel violence and increase homicides,” Mr. Fedotov stated.
Organized crime, especially drug-trafficking, accounted for a quarter of deaths caused by firearms in the Americas, but only some 5 per cent of homicides in Asia and Europe (where data are available). This does not mean, however, that organized crime groups are not active in those two regions, but rather that they may be operating in ways that do not employ lethal violence to the same extent.
Crime and violence are strongly associated with large youthful populations, especially in developing countries. While 6.9 persons per 100,000 are killed each year globally, the rate for young male victims is three times higher (21.1 per 100,000). Young men are more likely to own weapons and engage in street crime, take part in gang warfare and commit drug-related offences.
Cities may be the scene of three times more homicides than less populated areas. Gender dimensions of violent crime Globally, some 80 per cent of homicide victims and perpetrators are men. But, whereas men are likelier to be killed in a public place, women are mainly murdered at home, as in Europe where half of all female victims were killed by a family member. The overwhelming majority of victims of partner and family-related violence are women. In Europe, for example, women comprised almost 80 per cent of all people killed by a current or former partner in 2008.
The full picture
Currently, all data on intentional homicides are derived from either criminal justice or public health systems. However, not all countries have the capacity to compile consistent and reliable crime statistics. International and regional entities therefore have a partial picture of the world crime situation. The knowledge of the patterns and causes of violent crime are crucial for devising preventive strategies.
UNODC supports States in the areas of crime prevention and criminal justice, especially resulting from drug trafficking and organized crime. The Office has developed technical assistance tools to help States translate policy into reality, and supports the development of model strategies and practical measures.