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Crime causes more deaths than armed conflicts

by Maria James


In 2017, some 464,000 murders were registered in the world, a figure that quintupled the 89,000 deaths that occurred as a result of armed conflicts during the same year, according to data released this Monday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). ).

The “Global Homicide Study 2019” analyzes crimes related to gender violence, gang violence and other types of murders with the intention of helping to develop strategies that prevent these deaths and reduce the homicide rate.

The executive director of UNODC, Yury Fedotov, recalled that countries have committed to reduce all forms of violence and the deaths it causes to meet the goals of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2030.

“This report offers important examples of community operations that have helped to substantially improve some areas affected by violence, gangs and organized crime,” Fedotov said.

According to the study, one of the most dangerous regions was Central America, where homicides reached 62.1 per 100,000 people in some points.

Asia, Europe and Oceania, on the other hand, were the safest areas of the world during the period studied with a homicide rate of 2.3, 3 and 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively. These indicators were well below the global average of 6.1 murders per 100,000 people.

In Africa, that rate was 13, while in the Americas it reached 17.2 in 2017, the highest number since rigorous records began in 1990.

The UNODC highlighted that global homicides increased from 395,542 in 1992 to 464,000 in 2017, although it clarified that if the increase in the population is taken into account, the risk of being killed decreased during the same period and that these deaths fell from 7.2 to 6.1 per 100,000 inhabitants.

The organized crime

Screenshot of a video raising awareness on the cost of transnational criminal organizations from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

UNODC Screenshot from a video raising awareness on the cost of transnational criminal organizations from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

The publication indicates that organized crime was responsible for 19% of homicides in 2017 and underlines that, since the beginning of this century, these criminal groups have killed as many people as all armed conflicts combined.

It also warns that, like armed conflicts, organized crime destabilizes countries, undermines socioeconomic development and erodes the rule of law.

In this line, the executive director of UNODC considered that, unless the international community takes urgent measures, the goals of Development Goal 16, referring to drastically reducing all forms of violence and deaths derived from it, will not be met.

Young men are at higher risk of being murdered

One of the findings of the study was that although the murders of girls and boys under the age of nine are comparable, in the rest of the ages men account for more than 50% of the victims according to data from 41 countries due to street crimes.

The report shows that the probability that a child will be murdered increases with their age in all regions and marks the period between the ages of 15 and 29 as the period with the highest risk of homicide worldwide.

It details that in America, the victims of 18 and 19 years of age are estimated at 46 per 100,000, a much higher number than that of their peers in other regions, in addition to the fact that firearms are more frequently present in homicides of this continent than in other parts of the world.

“High levels of violence are associated with young men, both the victims and the perpetrators,” the publication notes.

“Therefore, violence prevention programs should focus on supporting young people to avoid being drawn into a subculture of gangs or drug dealing.”


UN Women/Dzilam Mendez An art installation to highlight violence against women in Mexico City.

Women and girls account for fewer deaths than men, but they continue to be the main victims of homicide at the hands of their partners and family members, men in more than 90% of cases.

Feminicides committed by couples are rarely spontaneous or fortuitous; however, they often go unreported and “very often ignored,” Fedotov noted.

In order to help governments reduce murders, UNODC identified several causes of this phenomenon: firearms, drugs and alcohol, inequality, unemployment, political instability and gender stereotypes.

The study emphasizes the importance of fighting corruption, strengthening the rule of law and investing in public services, especially education, to reduce crime.

Fedotov asserted that it is possible to curb the threat of criminal networks with adequate policies, among which he cited the involvement of communities, police patrols, and police reforms to foster population confidence in public forces.

UNODC indicated that young members of gangs and criminal groups need help to break out of these structures through social work, rehabilitation programs and information on non-violent options.


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