Murder Rates in the US
Nationally, the US murder rate
has remained around 5 murders per 100,000 people for the last several years, and between 4 and 6 murders per 100,000 people over the last decade (FBI, 2012, Uniform Crime Reports, National Archive of Criminal Justice Data). As of 2013, New Orleans
was the murder capital of the United States, with a rate of 54 murders per 100,000 people in 2012. This was up from 50.9 per 100,000 people in 2010, but far lower than its highest rate, which occured in 2007 with 94.7 murders per 100,000 people (FBI, 2012, Uniform Crime Reports, National Archive of Criminal Justice Data). This is despite New Orleans being relatively safe when it comes to violent crime, more generally. Some attribute this to the city's remarkably high ratio of gun assaults to murders. In most American cities it is 11-1, while in New Orleans it is 4-1. In other words, gun-crimes are over twice as lethal in New Orleans as in other cities. Others attribute it to the low crime-reporting rate in New Orleans. Either way, New Orleans, along with Detroit
, have managed to consistently rank among the highest of American cities in murder rates over the last ten years. However, the New Orleans data is a good example of why murder rates should not be considered the most indicative proof of a region's safety or quality of life.
Murder Rates for Men vs. Women
Men have consistently higher rates of both committing murder and being the victim of murder, as 11.9 out of every 100,000 men (versus 2.6 out of every 100,000 women) will die from violent crime when looking at the global and multinational data (UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011), and almost 80% of perpetrators of murder are men, as well.
Murder Rates Globally: How the Countries Compare
Over 468,000 murders occurred across the world in 2010. Global murder rates
have risen sharply in recent years, roughly 8% since last year, due mainly to climbing rates in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Global Peace Index developed by the Global Institute for Economics and Peace (Global murder rate up 8 per cent after sharp rises in Africa and Latin America, 10 June 2013, The Times). The country with the highest murder rate in the world is Honduras, with 92 murders per 100,000 citizens. The UK
sees some of the lowest murder rates in the world, with roughly 1 murder for every 100,000 people. And despite some perceptions, the United States
is one of the safest places to live with respect to homicide risk, with a murder rate of only 4.8 per 100,000 persons. Canada
is even lower, with an average around 2 per 100,000 persons. Vancouver
, for instance, a sizeable metropolitan area, has a mruder rate as low as 1.5 per 100,000 (PostMedia News, July 22, 2011). In general, most cities and small towns across Canada and the US have a near-zero murder rate or a statistically-insigificant murder rate. Windsor, Ontario (a small to medium sized city of 200,000) had only 1 murder in 2011, putting the homicide rate that year at 0.30 per 100,000. Detroit, Michigan
, which is just across the river from Windsor
, Ontario and is 800,000 in population, suffered from a much higher murder rate, at between 5 and 6 per 100,000. For comparisons of cities and towns across the US and Canada see the Crime Statistics by City
36% of global homicides took place in Africa. Particularly shocking was Trinidad and Tobago's 488% growth in homicides between 1999 and 2008. 31% murders took place in the Americas. In Jamaica, the murder rate stands at 52.2 per 100,000 people. In 20 of Gautemala's 333 municipalities, the murder rate met or exceeded 80 per 100,000 people. The highest of these Guatemalan cities, Nuevo Concepción in Escuintla, ranked at 171 per 100,000 people. Many point to transnational drug trafficking networks along the coast as the primary source of such violent crime (Global Insight Daily Analysis September 2012). 27% murders took place in Asia, while only 5% of murders worldwide took place in Europe. 42% of all murders worldwide involved guns
Socio-economic conditions account for the majority in worldwide differences in murder rates, with individuals in poor countries facing a four-fold risk of dying a violent death. Organized crime contributed a large portion of those gun-related deaths, and the incidence of organized-crime-related gun-deaths generally follows the rise and fall of economic patterns and the business cycle. In 2009 in Mexico's Ciudad Juarez, 2,600 people were murdered while only 19 homicides were actually cleared by police. Demographics can also play a large role, as well. While the murder rate for all people worldwide is 6.9 per 100,000, this number jumps to 21.1 per 100,000 for young adult men. As homicide rates in Canada
and the US have clearly shown, over the past forty years the violent crime rate and the murder rate have been steadily falling as the baby-boomers age and enter retirement. Since the 1990's, murder rates across Canada and the US have falled by between 50% and 100%. In New York City
, for instance, the crime rate fell by 75% in 2010 since the 1990's. In Dallas
it fell by 70%, while in Newark
it fell by 74%, in Washington D.C.
it fell by 58% since its peak, and in Los Angeles
it has fallen 78% (Mother Jones January 2013). This is also reflected in the declining prison populations that we have seen in recent years. Age is a key risk factor in assessing dangerousness in offenders
, especially combined with the male gender.
Certain regions of Central America and the Carribean rank at the top when it comes to global homicide rates. Much of this difference is due to access to firearms, since roughly 75% of all homicides in the Americas invovle weapons-related offences, compared to only 21% in Europe. Nearly 2% of every 20-year old male aged today living in Central America will be killed before they reach their early thirties. In the Central American countries there are even signs of this trend in homicide rates rising.
Murder and Deterrence
States with the death penalty
generally have higher murder rates than states without the death penalty, and this has especially been the since the 1990's, when murder rates rose more sharply in these states than they did in the past. Today, opponents of execution point to this growing gap between serious sanctions and serious crimes as proof that the death penalty is outdated and should be abolished. It is widely assumed that individuals living in their respective states are fully aware of the death penalty statutes, however, in those "heat of the moments" that precede many murders, it is not as clear whether offenders are fully aware of the death penalty status to resist the impulse. A comphrensive University of Colorado at Boulder survey conducted in 2008 concluded that the overwhelming majority of criminology experts believed the death penalty is a very poor deterrent to murder. At the same time, however, it is widely accepted that punishment must be swift and certain after a crime has been committed in order for the deterrent effect to take hold (according to Beccarria's long-lasting theories on punishment), and the reality of a congested criminal justice today means that serious punishments take a long time, even several years, to be administered. According to the New York Times, the United States sees 16,000 homicides occur each year nationally, while only 150 result in death sentences (Minus proof, debate rages, 3 June 2013, The Denver Post)
While the NRA will argue that the states in the US with the strictest guns laws actually have the highest gun-related murder rates, and also pointing to international data showing that widespread firearm-bans actually doubled handgun crimes in the UK, the evidence is mixed. The nine states in the US with the "strictest" gun laws, according to San Francisco Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. The most recent 2011 data from the FBI, however, shows that the average crime rate ranking for these nine states was 33rd out of all states, and the average murder rate for these nine states was 28th out of all states.