The Murder Capitals of the World

According to a report by the Mexican NGO Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice (CCSP-JP by its Spanish acronym), the majority of the world’s most murderous cities — 42 out of the top 50 — are found in Latin America. A chart by The Economist breaks down these grim results in stark visual terms.

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El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, home to around 1.8 million people, has seen its murder rate double in just one year to 1,900; the small Central American country subsequently beats neighboring Honduras as the country with the world’s highest murder rate. Latin America’s largest country, Brazil, accounts for 21 of the world’s most homicide-plagues cities, up from 14 just five years ago, when the report first began.

As InSight Crime points out in its analysis of the report, it is not just the number of cities on the list, but the degree of homicide; for example, Venezuela not only has ten cities in the list, but three among the top 20, including one in first place.

Thankfully, not all the news is grim. Despite the horrific toll of its drug war, Mexico saw only five of its cities on the list, compared to 12 five years ago. Meanwhile, Colombia has reaped dividends from its ongoing peace process, with only three cities on the list; Medellin, its second-largest city and once among the most crime-ridden, does not even show up. Puerto Rico’s capital and largest city, San Juan, went from 25th place in 2011 to dropping out of the top 50.

And while Honduras’ second largest city, San Pedro Sula, ranks in tenth place, this represents a significant improvement following multiple consecutive years as the world number one most violent city has actually seen its murder rate halve (the murder rate has declined by almost 100 percent).

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Courtesy of InSight Crime

The only two countries outside Latin America and the Caribbean to make the list are the United States and South Africa, with four cities each. The U.S. has the uneviable distinction of being the only wealthy democracy to be represented in this ranking.

One factor that nearly all the cities on the list have in common is a high concentration of gang activity, particularly in relation to the drug trade. Most homicides take place between gang members, often with relations, neighbors, and drug users caught up in the mix. Heavy handed law enforcement often contributes to the death rate as well.

But with violence of all kinds thankfully on the decline worldwide, it will hopefully only be a matter of time before Latin America and the Caribbean follow suit. Indeed, by historical standards, the relatively high rate of murder still bedeviling most of these cities is still far less than it used to be. Here is hoping the trend continues.

What are your thoughts?

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