Violent crime (homicide, robberies)

Violent crime worldwide is characterised by different forms of the use of violence, such as homicide, robberies, hold-ups, abductions, rape, burglaries, car theft or drug-related crime. In Germany, the term ‘violent crime’ (Gewaltdelikte) denotes bodily harm, torture, homicide, robberies and rape.

From the forms of violent crime just mentioned, by definition, the degree of violence used during acts of homicide and robberies compared to other violent crime is the highest. A common and generally accepted definition of both crimes is offered by the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations – HEUNI. In the current edition of International Statistics on Crime and Justice, HEUNI, defines homicide and robbery as follows:

  • Intentional homicide or homicide is defined as the intentional killing of a person by another;
  • Robbery is defined as theft of property from a person, overcoming resistance by force or threat of force (it includes muggings, bag snatching and theft with violence while extortion and bag snatching without violence are not taken into consideration).

The scope of homicide measured in the number of homicides committed per 100,000 inhabitants (see map layer) can be compared with the direct consequences of violent conflict, namely victims of war. In violent conflict, too, there is generally an intent to kill.

Intentional homicide (homicide)

Globally, the most comprehensive data are available on the criminal offence of homicide, as it is one of the most frequently reported offenses to the police than any other violent crime. The definition had to be adjusted for the available data set as manslaughter and death caused by resistance, for instance, are not treated as homicide in some countries.

It must be noted that for some countries, police statistics or estimates are not available. Either they are not recorded or the country has not made the data available. For instance, data were available for only 25 of 54 African countries. Unreported cases and differing documentation practices make a regional and country comparison difficult.

According to the global data recorded and made available by HEUNI for 2003 to 2008, North, South and Western Europe with up to 2.5 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants show the lowest amount of homicides while southern Africa, Central America and the Caribbean show the highest with 20 to 30 per 100,000 inhabitants. In total, 490,000 homicides were recorded globally in 2004, which corresponds to a ratio of 7.6 homicides per 100,000 persons.

If one looks at the countries themselves, stable or declining homicide ratios can be observed for most of the 88 countries covered. An insignificant number of countries show a rising trend. The highest homicide rates can be found in countries in Central America and the Caribbean, such as Belize, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras, and Jamaica, as well as in Venezuela. Here, the homicide rate is more than 40 homicides per 100,000 persons, which must be seen in the context of organised crime, drug trade and gang activities. The situation in Honduras, for instance, worsened dramatically between 2003 and 2008,—the homicide rate nearly doubled in that period. A different picture can be seen in most parts of Asia and Europe, where homicide rates are declining. Positive examples are Latvia and Moldova, where homicide rates have more than halved between 2003 and 2008.

The availability of firearms seems to be one key factor for high homicide rates. Data on homicides committed with firearms are available for 61 countries but the criteria for the collection of these data differ markedly. Thus it is very difficult to compare them. The use of firearms, for instance, when committing homicide varies between 10 per cent in Europe and up to 75 per cent in Central America and the Caribbean


Robberies are violent thefts. Data in this category is relatively easy to collect, as a very similar definition is used in two-thirds of all countries where data is available (105),. Robberies take place more frequently than homicides. However, the number of unreported cases is assumed to be much higher than that for homicides.

In a global comparison, robberies are documented in southern Africa and the American continent with 110 to 200 cases on average per 100,000 inhabitants. On the opposite scale lies Asia with the lowest numbers of less than 25 cases per 100,000 persons. At the country level, the data available shows that Myanmar (in 2002, with 0.01 robberies per 100,000 inhabitants) and Pakistan (in 2000, with 0.1 robberies per 100,000 inhabitants) are by far the ‘safest’ countries in terms of being robbed. By contrast, Chile (in 2004, with 1275.6 robberies per 100,000 inhabitants) and Argentina (in 2006, with 905.3 per 100,000 inhabitants) can be considered the most ‘dangerous’ countries for being robbed.

Based on a continuous collection and availability of data, we were able to calculate trends for 35 countries for the years between 1996 and 2006 and to ascertain a rising trend in the number of robberies. The global average in 1996 was 49 robberies per 100,000 people; in 2006, it was 60 robberies per 100,000 persons. The most drastic change to the worse was shown for Turkey and Cyprus. The most drastic change to the better was shown for Estonia and Moldova.

The global comparison of all data on violent crime presented in this portal is based on the global ratio of crime per number of inhabitants of a country. The national data are globally collected and harmonised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and HEUNI in its International Statistics on Crime and Justice. The European Union also collects data, but only for its Member States. These can be called up via the EUROSTAT website. The European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics contains a content analysis of all European states.

One difficulty encountered in the global presentation and analysis of the data on violent crime is the diversity of definitions that exist for various kinds of violent crime. This diversity as well as a different data situation in the individual countries has led to a variety of data sets. This information portal has only used data sets that contain crime recorded by the police.

Sources and further information:

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