The first Global Study on Homicide indicates that Belize has climbed the list of countries having the highest rates of intentional homicides in the world.
A press release issued today out of Vienna, from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which published the study, said that there is evidence of rising homicide rates in Central America and the Caribbean, which, the study indicates, are “near crisis point”.
Belize is now reporting the 6th highest intentional homicide rate—41.7 per 100,000 people in the nation’s population of roughly 313,000—having just surpassed neighboring Guatemala on account of last year’s homicide count of 130, reported to the UN agency by the Organization of American States (OAS). (In 2010, Belize was reportedly ranked 7th globally.)
Interestingly, Belize’s homicide rate has been generally climbing over the past decade, with the rate reported at 18.8 in 2000.
In 2010, the homicide rate in both Belize and neighboring Honduras surged, while decreased rates are being reported for Guatemala and Salvador.
The 2010 UN report, in fact, reports the highest rate for Honduras, at 82.1, up from the intentional homicide rate of 70.7 reported for 2009. (The UN cites Honduran national police as the source of that data.)
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Awich spoke on Friday, September 23 of the escalation of violent crimes in Belize, signaling that, “This year the police in Belize have already received over 80 reports of homicides.”
Unofficial tracking of homicides by Amandala reporter Aaron Humes puts the tally now at 104, with the latest two homicides this week.
“In countries with high murder rates, especially involving firearms, such as in Central America, 1 in 50 males aged 20 will be killed before they reach the age of 31 — several hundred times higher than in some parts of Asia,” the UNODC release also said.
The study shows that young men, particularly in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and southern and central Africa, are at most risk from intentional homicide but that women are at highest risk from murder due to domestic violence.
In 2010, 42% of homicides were committed with firearms (Americas: 74%, Europe: 21%), the UN press release said.
It also said that, “Organized crime, especially drug-trafficking, accounted for a quarter of deaths caused by firearms in the Americas, but only some 5 per cent of homicides in Asia and Europe (where data are available).”
Several of the top homicide countries in our region have also been implicated as key in the international drug trade. United States President Barack Obama last month included Belize and El Salvador on the list of 22 countries ranked as “Major Illicit Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2012,” lumping the countries with Afghanistan, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela as major players.
Another point of interest is that, according to the release, “Crime and violence are strongly associated with large youthful populations, especially in developing countries.... Cities may be the scene of three times more homicides than less populated areas.”
Data included in the Global Homicide study indicate that in Belize City, the intentional homicide rate is 106.4 – more than double the national rate.
In the October 6, 2011, online article titled, “Homicide rates: Murder most foul”, The Economist says: “Countries with low scores on the United Nations Development Programme’s human-development index tend to have high murder rates and vice versa. But exceptions to this reveal a second trend. Organized crime, drug trafficking, violent gang culture and the prevalence of firearms are also correlated with higher murder rates, even in relatively developed countries. Honduras and El Salvador, which have the highest and second-highest murder rates in the world (82 per 100,000 and 66 per 100,000 respectively), are the prime examples of this.”
According to the UNODC’s press release, “Firearms are behind rising murder rates in those two regions, where almost three quarters of all homicides are committed with guns, compared to 21 per cent in Europe.”
The UNODC data show that in 2010, 52.5% of the homicides in Belize involved firearms.
Overall, the UNODC reports that 468,000 homicides occurred across the world in 2010, but it reports a global homicide rate of 6.9 per 100,000 in the global population.
The most of those (nearly 44,000) occurred in Brazil, although on a per capita basis, the reported rate is 22.7—significantly lower than Belize’s.
“Tighter controls on firearms, in conjunction with disarmament campaigns were implemented in Brazil to reduce crime levels and homicides in particular,” said the summary version of the UN report.
“Some 36 per cent of all homicides take place in Africa, 31 per cent in the Americas, 27 per cent in Asia, 5 per cent in Europe, and 1 per cent in Oceania,” said the UNODC press release.
The study also indicated that sudden dips in the economy can drive up homicide rates.
“In selected countries, more murders occurred during the financial crisis of 2008/09, coinciding with declining gross domestic product (GDP), higher consumer price index and more unemployment,” the organization said.
The summary document detailing key findings said, “Homicide levels can be affected by sudden pronounced changes in the economy. In a sample of countries, changes in economic conditions corresponding to the financial crisis of 2008/2009 were associated with increases in homicide levels. Increasing prices and a decline in GDP mark the economic crisis, for example in Jamaica, where an increase in levels of homicide can be noted in the same period.”
Jamaica is the only country in the Caribbean that reported an intentional homicide rate higher than Belize. Belize used to lag behind Trinidad, but the 2010 data from Trinidad national police puts the per capita rate in that country at 35.2.
This makes Belize the country with the second highest intentional homicide rate in the Caribbean, the third in Central America, the fifth in the Americas and the sixth in the world.
Trinidad, like Guatemala, is reporting a slight decline in the intentional homicide rate.