According to a five-year study conducted by political scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder, murder rates are the highest in countries that lack due process–with Latin America leading the way. Despite being home to just eight percent of the world’s population, Latin America accounts for 33 percent of the world’s homicides. Here are the top ten countries with the highest murder rates in the world.
10. Trinidad and Tobago
There are 30.88 murders per every 100,000 people in Trinidad and Tobago, mostly due to gun violence. According to a 2017 article on the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Newspaper’s website, 2017 “started with one of the highest numbers of murders ever recorded in a single month—more than 50. It is ending with the toll close to 500, with murders taking place at a rate of about 40 a month.”
In May 2018, the paper reported that eight murders had been committed in less than 24 hours throughout the North and Central districts. At the time the story was published, there had already been 187 murders so far for the year.
Guatemala has 31.21 murders per 100,000 people. Gang violence is a big concern in Guatemala. So much so that many kids are fleeing the area known as the “Northern Triangle” (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) on a quest for a better life in the U.S.
According to data from numerous government and non-governmental sources, children living in the “Northern Triangle” are ten times more likely to be murdered than children living in the U.S. Those aged 15 to 17 face the highest risk of homicide.
8. Saint Kitts and Nevis
The tiny nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis has become a “nation of assassins,” former police officer, Thadeus Depusoir, posted on the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police force’s Facebook page.
“This type of violence started in the mid 80’s leading up to today. What has caused this drastic change in society? The islands went from a peaceful, law abiding and Christian minded community, to almost anarchy amongst the younger generation,” Depusoir said.
“They say with progress comes some violence but this is too much when folks start gunning down each other so frequently. I personally place some blame on the politicization of the high command over that period of time. This trickled down the ranks and lower the morality in the lower ranks. The community then lost its trust in the Police Force. Before the mid 80’s there were Chiefs and Commissioners like Lynch Wade, Hector and Joseph Francis. The Police Force was well respected then and violent crimes were a rarity. They never lost an officer in the line of duty. The current Police high command is the best it has been in over 32 years. They have their hands full in trying to clean up the mess of that period of time,” Depusoir said.
“I was planning a trip to SK in September and now I change the venue to Grenada. At least when I’m there I don’t have to look over my shoulder,” he posted.
WorldAtlas.com reports that Saint Kitts and Nevis has a homicide rate of 33.55 per 100,000 people.
7. South Africa
South Africa has a homicide rate of 34.27 per 100,000 people. Factors contributing to the country’s homicide rate include unemployment, poverty, wealth inequality, widespread corruption, and a lack of infrastructure.
Just last month, eleven people were killed and four critically wounded when South African gunmen opened fire on a minibus carrying members of a taxi drivers’ association. “There has been a lot of taxi violence in the area but we are still investigating who the perpetrators were,” Police Brigadier Jay Naicker told the BBC. The victims had attended a colleague’s funeral earlier and were on their way back home when they were ambushed by the gunmen.
The attack came just days after deadly shootings in Johannesburg, where one taxi owner was shot dead in his vehicle and two others were killed while under police escort. Tensions between taxi drivers vying for the same routes sometimes turn deadly. According to South African media, ten people died in violence related to rival taxi drivers in Cape Town over one weekend in May.
Despite being a popular tourist spot, Belize has one of the highest murder rates in the world. There are 34.4 homicides per 100,000 people. Just two months into 2018, Belize had over twenty murders. The very first one occurred within less than 24 hours of ringing in the new year. And, on January 2nd, a man visiting his family in Belize for the holidays was gunned down.
In February of this year, the Belize Police Department unveiled a new crime fighting strategy to try to turn things around. “There are four salient goals. Our priorities are the reduction of murders and gang violence in Belize City and across the country, prevention, interdiction and successful prosecution of criminals and the restoration of public confidence. Our priorities will be achieved through the following: to reduce gun-related crime, target and dismantle criminal gangs through legislative reforms, through the strengthening of the professional standards branch and the implementation of a systematic video surveillance program for Belize City,” Police Commissioner Allen Whylie was quoted as saying on a Belize radio station’s website.
Unfortunately, gun violence continues to rise. As a result, some Belize citizens are calling for capital punishment to be reinstated in the hopes of deterring crime.
Lesotho, a small country in southern Africa, has a murder rate of 38 per 100,000 people. Most crime occurs in Lesotho’s urban areas.
A shootout at a military barracks in Maseru, Lesotho’s capital, last September resulted in several fatalities. According to News24.com, “rival officers gunned down Lesotho’s army chief and were then killed by his bodyguards.” The shootout dashed any hopes of a turnaround in the country’s cycle of violence. The rival officers who were killed in the shootout were also suspected of being involved in the 2015 killing of former army chief Maaparankoe Mahao.
“We have a problem of long drawn-out politicization of the army,” National University of Lesotho political science lecturer Mafa Sejanamane told AFP. “Politicians plot, murder and steal public resources without fear of consequences as a result of their alliance with elements of the military.”
Jamaica has 43.21 homicides per 100,000 individuals, a decrease from its rate of 58 murders per 100,000 people back in 2005. Most of Jamaica’s murders are due to organized crime activity.
After declaring a State of Public Emergency, crime has reduced and the national daily murder rate has been on a downward trend. “If you look, you will see that at the point of the declaration of the state of emergency, the average daily murders have fallen from 4.65 to 3.44, nationally,” Jamaica’s Prime Minister, the Most Honorable Andrew Holness, pointed out in an address to the House of Representatives.
Venezuela has the third highest murder rate in the world, with 57.15 murders per 100,000 people each year. Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, is one of the most dangerous cities in the world and the second most murderous city in the world. Venezuela’s president, Nicholas Maduro, was the target of an assassination plot earlier this month. Two drones carrying explosives went off near the president while he was giving a live televised speech in Caracas. Seven National Guard soldiers were injured. Maduro escaped unharmed.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY FACTS:
-In 2012, Venezuela recorded 122 homicides per 100,000 people in the Capital District, and 100 homicides per 100,000 people in the state of Miranda
-The vast majority of murders go unsolved
-Armed criminal gangs often operate with impunity throughout the urban areas
-Poor neighborhoods that cover the hills around Caracas are extremely dangerous. These areas are seldom patrolled by police and are off limits to U.S. Embassy employees.
Honduras, with 63.75 murders per 100,000 people, comes in at number two–despite the fact that its murder rate fell by more than 25 percent in 2017. Many of the deaths in the country result from gun violence.
San Pedro Sula, a city in northern Honduras, is the 26th most dangerous city in the world and is at the center of the country’s violence. It was ranked at number three in 2016 and number one in 2013 and 2014. Aggressive crackdowns on gangs and drug traffickers, along with U.S.-funded programs to help community leaders confront crime has led to a drop in homicides.
1. El Salvador
Leading the pack is El Salvador with 108.64 murders per 100,000 people. About 60 percent of these murders is related to gang activity (Ten percent of people in the country are said to either be in a gang or under the influence of a gang). These gangs often target women (A woman is murdered in El Salvador every 19 hours).
Still, the country is taking measures to shed its reputation as the murder capital of the world. Salvadoran Edwin Carrillo has launched the social media hashtag #DontSkipElSalvador in order to attract tourists. “People need to understand that the gangs have their own business and their own problems. They are concentrating on each other and they don’t care about tourists,” Carrillo was quoted as saying on the Australian Broadcasting Company’s website. “I tell people that in El Salvador, you don’t have to be careful, you need to use common sense like everywhere else — there are streets all over the world that you shouldn’t walk down, the same here. Through word of mouth, presenting at international tourism conventions and social media campaigns we are gradually changing the perception that El Salvador is a place you skip, especially because once tourists come here our people are so friendly and they fall in love with our beaches, wildlife, volcanoes and coffee plantations.”
Many factors contribute to high murder rates, including poverty, violent conflict, political turmoil, and organized crime. According to WorldAtlas.com, “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.”