A think tank based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has recently released a data map showing that Latin America and the Caribbean are at the epicentre of the global homicide problem. Despite having just eight per cent of the world’s population, they clock up 33 per cent of all murders. The interactive 3D globe created by the Igarapé Institute is one of the clearest and most obvious representations of international homicide issues to date.
From the data, it soon becomes clear that it is young men who are most at risk from violent crime in this area. Almost half of all homicide victims in Latin America and the Caribbean are aged between 15 and 29 and, although on a global scale 78 per cent of homicide victims are male, across the same crisis zone this number rises to 85 per cent.
Honduras was listed by the study as having the highest homicide rate of 85.5 per 100,000 citizens. However, Brazil was noted as having the highest number of incidents and was focussed on by the group as being a key area of concern.
The illuminating 3D representation does little to deter the association of this region with gang culture, drug crime and mass poverty - problems prevalent across the entirety of Brazil and Latin America. According to Robert Muggah, Research Director of the Igarapé Institute: “The country [Brazil] is ground zero for homicide in the world - one in 10 people killed annually is a Brazilian.”
Taking data from 219 countries between 2000 and 2012, the group has compiled the information into an interactive globe, allowing users to view the fatal violent crime that is experienced by each country as a rate per 100,000. Furnished with impeccable detail, where available, the type of weapon used is also displayed on the chart, as well as the gender and average age of the victim.
The institute is described on the World Health Organisation’s website as being devoted to evidence-based policy and action on complex security and development challenges. The map is designed to increase the global public’s awareness of the amount of violent crime that actually occurs around the world - targeting decision makers, practitioners, scholars and journalists alike.
The Latin American and Caribbean sectors provide the most harrowing statistics, but there is plenty of food for thought emanating from the rest of the map. Africa is largely covered in red, indicating murder rates of more than 12.5 per 100,000 citizens and Swaziland is unfortunate enough to make it into the worst 10 countries for homicide rate.
Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan score lower, each carrying a homicide rate of between six and eight per 100,000 inhabitants. This may surprise some given the sustained media portrayal of these areas as being violent and barbaric. However, putting personal speculation regarding the legality of war aside, this relatively low percentage is explained in part by the fact that a large number of these fatalities will be classed as casualties of war as opposed to illegal homicide per se.
Not only do the results displayed signal the nations most at risk, the red and blue colour code used by the Igarapé Institute brutally highlight the stark contrast experienced across the continents - contrasts often mirrored in the economical disparities between them. The USA carries a homicide rate of 4.7 per 100,000 citizens, whereas the UK scored much lower at just 1 per 100,000, making it amongst the safest nations in the world.
The Igarapé Institute is now assembling a team of criminologists and public health experts to analyse the data and compare struggling areas to ones that are reducing the amount of fatal crime, such as Western Europe and North America, where figures have reduced by 40 per cent over the last 20 years.
Though widely debated, it is believed by the Igarapé Institute that the world’s richer countries tend to fare better due to smaller family sizes, improved access to education, improvements in social welfare, and declines in rapid urbanization.
Representations such as this will help bring these devastating statistics to life for a larger number of people and force the issue on an international scale. The Igarapé Institute’s statistical approach is much harder to argue with, and their foresight to present it in a clear and accessible way is really what will make the difference in spreading awareness. Many will agree with Muggah when he notes: “Making information available about homicide is the first step towards doing something about it.”
Words: Thomas Eddershaw
Image Source: Homicide.Igarape.org