New tool unpacks homicide distribution, dimensions and dynamics around globe

2015-05-09 12:34

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The Igarapé Institute, a think tank based in Brazil devoted to evidence-based policy and action on complex security and development challenges, has launched a homicide monitor covering several countries including South Africa.

The Homicide Monitor is a new open source data-driven visualisation tool that shows the distribution, dimensions and dynamics of homicide around the world.

It describes the total number of homicides per country, their frequency per 100 000 people, and where data is available, the breakdown by gender and type of weapon. It includes data for more than 219 countries and territories.

Some of the frequently asked questions about the tool are:

- What is the Homicide Monitor?

The tool breaks information down according to the absolute number of homicides by country, the homicide rate per 100 000 people, the gender and age distribution of victims, and the types of weapons used in committing murder. The Homicide Monitor also includes subnational data for more than 40 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, the most violent region in the world.

- Why do we need a Homicide Monitor?

The issue of homicide is still considered taboo in many countries and cities around the world. Until quite recently, many governments were reluctant to publicise information on murder for fear of negatively affecting their country´s reputation, tourism and investment flows. Fortunately, attitudes are changing and there is growing openness and transparency about the scale and distribution of homicidal violence.

- How does the Homicide Monitor work?

The Homicide Monitor is a user-friendly data visualisation tool which features a three dimensional spinning globe. It is open source and draws on the WebGL platform. Users can navigate the globe by placing their curser over countries (and in the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, states and cities).

- Where does the data come from?

The underlying dataset for the Homicide Monitor draws from a number of verified and trusted sources. The primary source of national homicide data is from the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which collects information from governments around the world. Detailed information from Latin America and the Caribbean (disaggregated by age, sex, type of weapon and state/city) was gathered by the Igarapé Institute from primary sources (such as police, ministries, national statistical offices). Other sources of national data were also identified including those supported by the Organization of American States (OAS) Observatory for Citizen Security.

- What kinds of limitations are there in the data?

There are several challenges in developing international datasets on homicide. For one, different countries categorize and count homicide differently. For example, many statistical offices distinguish between intentional and unintentional homicide. In some countries, homicides are only counted after an arrest and prosecution is made. In others, homicide counts are based on coronary reports. As a result, in some settings homicide data may also include other types of violent death including accidents, suicides, terrorist incidents and even war-related deaths.

- What about war deaths?

The Homicide Monitor does not on draw sources counting deaths directly associated with military operations in civil or inter-state wars. It is of course very difficult to disaggregate homicides taking place in the same place as an armed conflict from deaths due to warfare. Therefore homicide counts and estimates from countries affected by armed conflict should be viewed with caution.

- What are the Homicide Dispatches?

While the Homicide Monitor provides information on trends and pattern it does not interpret or analyse the data for users. By way of contrast, the Homicide Dispatches will be prepared by international experts to explain the story behind the data. Specialists in criminology, public health, and other social sciences will contribute short analytical contributions highlighting the underlying causes and far-reaching consequences of murder, ways that governments count homicide, and innovative strategies to prevent and reduce intentional violence.

- Who developed the Homicide Monitor?

The Homicide Monitor is a project of the Igarapé Institute, a think and do tank based in Brazil. It was developed with support from the Open Society Foundation (OSF) and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), with assistance from Norway. Design inputs were provided by Periscopic. The Igarapé Institute team led the overall development of the Monitor. National data was supplied by the UNODC. Additional sources of information for Latin America and the Caribbean were sourced from governments around the world, as well as the WHO and OAS. The underlying dataset of the Homicide Monitor is overseen by the Igarapé Institute and will be periodically updated to ensure that the tool is up-to-date.

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