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Which Countries Murder the Most

28 January 2014, 10:00

Out of 62 countries, South Africa has the 4th most murders behind Brazil (201million pop.), India (1.2billion pop.) and Mexico (118million pop.) in 2011/2012.

In comparison, taking into account South Africa's 53million  population, our murder ratio is far higher than any of those countries. We're not alone in the fact that some smaller countries have a lot more killing disproportionate to their size. So how do we compare to those?

When comparing a 2011/2012 list of countries by homicide rate per 100 000 inhabitants, the international standard, South Africa (31) ranked 10th behind Central American and Caribbean countries such as Honduras (87), El Salavador (71) Venezuela (47), Jamaica (39) and Columbia (34). This remarkably contrasts with what movies and television would have you believe is the truth e.g. United States (4.7), Russia (12), India (2.8). Even Mexico, with it's mass killings by drug cartels, only has a ration of 20. Uruguay, which lies directly west of my home town of Knysna, whose living standards i've previously compared us to, is much lower at 5.9.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported in 2011 that 82% of worldwide homicide victims were male. This male domination continues when you consider that women are more likely to be killed by their boyfriend or husband.

16 259 people were murdered in South Africa in 2013. The world average for murder is 7.6 per 100 000 people. Murder in South Africa is 36.5 per 100 000.

A survey, the by the SA Institute for Race Relations, the same year, showed that 81% of murders in South Africa occurred in black households. This dispells the myth that the white population (11%) is being targeted as a whole (however, the killing of white farmers seems disproportionate and should be treated outside this context).

There was an outcry on my Facebook when i stated that Knysna was one of the most violent towns in the world. Some dismissed that fact because i had compared Knysna to international cities - the deniers wanted comparisons to other South African cities. That would be hollow consolation when looking at Knysna's 2012/2013 crime statistics which had the SAPS list 6287 crimes for our small, tourist town. That figure is worsened when you consider that crimes reported are nearer 9600 (a third of the crimes aren't pursued). For a town with 68 000 population, the number of contact crimes is particularly disturbing.

Knysna has had 123 murders and 57 attempted murders the past 5 years (20009-2013). It also ranks, provincially, in the top 10 for crimes involving the neglect of children, house break-ins, sex crimes and public violence (where do the repeated closures of the N2, and subsequent crimes, fall into this?).

Looking to the Western Cape's capital, the police "recorded more murders in Cape Town than in Johannesburg and Pretoria combined." One cannot help but wonder if this is related to the province's high alcohol and drug abuse (nominally tik and heroin) which Knysna also suffers from.

What makes one country more dangerous than another? Homicide rates are normally higher where there's more organized crime, more weapons, drug trafficking, greater economic inequality, social exclusion and weak enforcing of the law. All that applies to South Africa. Considering that not much is being done about it, the situation is likely to worsen.
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