The position of Greece on the world map of murders

murder crime

A Global Study on Homicide by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime published in 2023 maps the number of murders committed worldwide in 2021.

A painful reality in Greece in 2024 is the fact that crime is at an all-time high. And unfortunately, we are hearing more about murder. The apparent increase in murders in Greece leads many to compare it to countries, especially Latin America, where homicide are routine.

But is this true?

Could it be that the prominence of crimes has taken on exaggerated dimensions and Greece's position in the world ranking based on the murders committed annually in each country is low? Numbers almost always tell the truth.

There is a Global Study of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published in 2023, and it concerns the homicides committed worldwide in 2021. According to this report, in 2021, 458,000 people were murdered worldwide, 19% of whom were women and 81% were men.

It is also impressive that in the UNODC report for 2017, it is stated that the murder victims in that year were five times the victims of armed conflicts worldwide!

The report explains that many socioeconomic factors determine homicide rates. These factors include gender stereotypes, social inequality, unemployment, political instability, gun ownership (most homicides are committed with the use of firearms) and, in particular, gangs, organised crime and the drug trade.

According to an earlier UNODC report (2019), there was an average of about 65,000 murders each year related to organised crime and gangs during the period 2000-2017. Specifically for 2017, the report considers that around 19% of homicides recorded worldwide are related to organised crime and gangs.

Homicide victims by continent

The top for homicides in 2021 was Africa, where 176,000 were the victims of murders. The Americas are next, with 154,000 homicide victims, Asia with 109,000, Europe with 17,000 and in last place, Oceania with just 1,000 victims.

However, there is a slight caveat to the number of murders in Oceania in 2021 as the figures are not perfectly cross-referenced. But apart from the absolute numbers, there are also the homicide rates by continent, as they do not all have the same population.

So in 2021, in the Americas, 15 people were murdered for every 100,000 (16 people in 2015); in Africa, 12.7 people for every 100,000 (12.4 in 2015); in Asia, 2.3 people for every 100,000 (2.4 in 2015 ), in Europe 2.2 people per every 100,000 when in 2015 it was 3.5.

In other words, we observe a significant decrease in homicides between 2015 and 2021. Finally, in Oceania, nothing changed, as homicide victims in both 2021 and 2015 were 2.9 per 100,000.

What means were used in the murders?

According to the very interesting UNODC report, as we mentioned above, most homicides, specifically 40% of them, were made with the use of firearms. 22% of the murders were committed with a knife, 24% with another means, while 14% of the homicides are unknown in which way they were committed.

Here it is worth mentioning the huge difference between Europe-Asia and America in terms of the means used in the killing.

In the Americas, 67% of murders were committed with the use of firearms! In Asia the same percentage was 15% and in Europe 12%.

Knives in homicides were mainly used in Asia (31%) and Europe (30%). In the Americas, knives were used in 14% of homicides.

Other means were mainly used in Asia (37%). Europe follows with 28% and the Americas with only 8%.

Finally, unknown means of committing homicides were used mainly in Europe (30%). Asia follows with 17% and the Americas with 10%. For Africa and Oceania, no data are available.

It is worth noting that in the USA, where gun ownership is allowed, in 2021, 48,830 people died by gun. Of these, 26,328 (54%) committed suicide, 20,958 (43%) were victims of murder, 549 were killed by an accident with a gun, 537 were victims of police brutality, and 458 were killed by a firearm under various circumstances (source: CDC).

In 2021, according to the UNODC report, 5.8 people worldwide per 100,000 were murdered. In the previous 2019 report covering 2017, the number was 6.1 people per 100,000.

Perhaps the fact that 2021 was the "coronavirus year" played a role in this slight decrease.

Which countries lead the world in murders?

The first places in the number of murders worldwide are held by countries in Central America, the Caribbean and some in Africa.

Considered by many as the country where the most murders are committed each year, Colombia belongs to the states in which more murders are committed than the world average, but other countries surpass it.

Let's look at the 20 countries with the highest number of murders in recent years. In parentheses is the year in which these murders were committed.

Most "dangerous" country in the world is Jamaica, with 53 murdered per 100,000 people in 2022 (1,508 in absolute numbers). They are as follows:

South Africa 41.9 (2021), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 40.4 (2022, 44 in absolute numbers), Trinidad and Tobago 40 (2022), Lesotho 37 (2008), Saint Lucia 36.7 (2022, 66 people murdered ), Honduras 35.1 (2022), Bahamas 31.2 (2022), Saint Kitts and Navis (Antilles) 29.4 (2021), Belize 27.9 (2022), Ecuador 27 (2022), Mexico 26,1 (2022), Colombia 25.4 (2022), just 13th, Nigeria 21.7 (2019), Brazil 21.3 (2021), Guatemala 20 (2021), Haiti 18 (2022), Puerto Rico 17 .6 (2022), Guyana 16.3 and Barbados 15.3.

The USA is very low on that list, with 6.1 people murdered per 100,000 in 2022 (in absolute numbers, 21,593).

Slightly above the world average is Russia, with 6.8 murdered per 100,000 (9,866 in absolute numbers). Finally, China has a particularly low rate (0.5 per 100,000 or 7,157 people murdered in absolute numbers).

The miracle of El Salvador

What makes a huge impression on someone who studies the UNODC tables is the huge decrease in the number of murders that El Salvador showed from 2017 to 2022.

In 2017, this Central American country was the first in the world in murders as their number reached 52.4 per 100,000.

In 2022, this number had dropped dramatically: just 7.8 people per 100,000 were murdered in the country last year. In absolute numbers, the murdered were 496.

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Map of countries by number of murders per 100,000 population between 2006 and 2018

Is Greece high on the murder list? - Its relation to the world average

Perhaps many think that Greece is high on the list of murders per year. But that doesn't happen. In 2022, 117 people were murdered in our country, 1.1 per 100,000 population.

The figure is well below the average (5.8) but slightly up in 2017 (0.9 then). This is a very small numerical increase (0.2) but a significant percentage increase (over 20%).

What is happening in our neighbouring countries?

And in our neighbouring countries, however, the rate of murders per 100,000 is much lower than the world average.

Thus, in Albania, it is 1.7, in Bulgaria 1.1, in Cyprus 0.6, in North Macedonia 0.9, in Romania 1.3, in Serbia 1 and Turkey 2.7 (2,279 people were murdered in 2022).

In general, the murder rates in Europe are particularly low, even in countries with a large population: France 1.1, Italy 0.5, Spain 0.7, Great Britain 1.1.

There is also a European country with zero murders: San Marino, only the figures are from 2011. And, of course, no murders took place in the Vatican!

Even in Liechtenstein, which has an abnormally high rate of 5.1 per 100,000, in 2021, the murders were only two!

What are the countries with the fewest murders?

Very low are the murder rates in Asian countries such as Japan, 0.2 per 100,000 (2021), Singapore 0.1 per 100,000 with only seven murders in 2022, Oman with 0.3 murders per 100,000 population (only 12 were murdered there in 2022), Bahrain with just one murder in 2021, Brunei with five murders in 2013, Kuwait with 11 murders (0.3 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2021), Qatar with 0.3 per 100,000 (9 murders in 2021), South Korea 0.5 per 100,000 (275 murders in 2022), the United Arab Emirates at 0.5 murders per 100,000 (44 murders in 2021) and Saudi Arabia at 0.8/100,000 (285 murders in 2019).

These very low rates are attributed to the high standard of living of the inhabitants of some of the above countries (Japan, South Korea, United Arab Emirates).

In the rest, there is effective law enforcement, strict gun regulations, and severe penalties for crimes. In Japan, there are very strict regulations on gun ownership, and murderers are punished by hanging.

Conclusion

Contrary to what many would believe, Greece is very low in the world ranking of murders per year and well below the world average. But this does not mean that we should be complacent.

Already, in the last five years, there has been a small but noticeable increase in the number of murders. Data for 2023 is currently not available.

What everyone admits is that since the 1960s and 1970s, for example, the causes that lead to murder have significantly changed.

Then we had crimes of passion, personal or property disputes, etc. In recent years, unfortunately, amid the general decline, human life in our country tends to lose its value, and almost every day, we read about criminal actions that reach the point of murder for nothing.

Adherence to the laws, tightening and, above all, the application of the penalties will clearly improve the situation in general in the matter of crime.

But there should be political will, correct choices of persons, corrective changes in some laws and faster administration of justice. Otherwise, let's not be surprised if, in future, UNODC reports, our country finds itself in much higher positions.

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