Since the beginning of the 21st century, the homicide rate worldwide has dropped by double digits, except in the Caribbean and Latin America, where it’s more than four times above the global average, a new U.N. report shows.
Overall, homicide rates decreased by 16 percent globally from 2000 to 2012, according to the report, which drew on data provided by 133 countries. It estimated that 474,937 people were killed by other human beings in 2012 worldwide – 6.7 homicides per 100,000 population – down from 493,064 in 2000, or 8.05 per 100,000.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the rate increased during the same period by 5 percent, from 27.1 homicides per 100,000 people in 2000 to 28.5 in 2012. That meant, according to the U.N. study, that the homicide rate in Latin America and the Caribbean is more than double the rate for all African countries – 10.9 per 100,000 – and more than seven times the 3.8 rate in wealthy countries.
The U.S. rate, with 17,293 homicides reported for 2012, was 5.4 per 100,000 people.
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“Homicides are very high in the Americas,” said Etienne Krug, the director for disability, violence and injury prevention at the World Health Organization.
Asked why Latin American rates were so much higher than those elsewhere in the world, Christopher Mikton, a technical officer for the World Health Organization who’s the lead author of the study, said criminologists didn’t agree. A specialist in forensic psychiatry, Mikton said contributing factors were high levels of inequality, easy access to drugs and guns, wars between gangs and narco-traffickers, and a culture that glamorizes violence.
The report, released last week, was compiled by the WHO, the U.N. Development Program and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The use of rates, as opposed to numbers of homicides, allows researchers to compare levels of violence in countries with vastly different populations. The surveyed countries comprise 88 percent of the world’s population, the report said.
The report concluded that from 2000 to 2012, about 6 million people worldwide were killed in interpersonal violence, “making homicide a more frequent cause of death than all wars combined.” It said homicide was the third leading cause of death globally among men aged 15-44. Males accounted for about 82 percent of homicide victims.
In the Western Hemisphere, Canada, which recorded just 644 homicides in 2012, had a homicide rate of 1.8 per 100,000. Costa Rica, at 8.5, with 407 homicides, and Cuba, with a rate of 5.0 and 561 homicides, were also at the low end of the scale in the Western Hemisphere.
Honduras had the hemisphere’s highest rate –103.9 homicides per 100,000 population, or 8,248 deaths –followed by Venezuela, at 57.6 per 100,000, or 17,259; Jamaica, at 45.1 and 1,250 deaths, and Belize at 44.7 with 144 homicides..
Other Latin countries with high homicide rates, according to the report, were El Salvador, 43.9, or 2,767 homicides; Colombia, 43.9, or 20,923 deaths; Guatemala, 39.9, 6,025 homicides, Brazil, at 32.4, with 64,357 homicides, and Mexico, with 26,597 homicides, a rate of 22.0 per 100,000 people.
Firearms were used in most of the homicides worldwide, accounting for 90 percent of deaths in Venezuela and 84 percent in Honduras.