Crime and punishment around the world - Statistics & Facts

In 2015, Caracas, Venezuela had the higher murder rate of any city in the world with 119.87 murders per 100,000 population. The list is dominated by cities in Latin and Central America with a few cities from the United States and South Africa in between. A look at homicide rates worldwide by region and gender shows that the Americas have a significantly higher rate than the global average and that all across the world men are much more likely the victim of homicide than women. In contrast, the top 20 places in the Global Peace Index, which heavily incorporates element of crime into its ranking, are dominated by economically prosperous European and Asia-Pacific countries. In recent years the amount of attention being given to the apparent links between income, inequality and crime has risen. As such, closer inspection into the cycle of crime and reoffending has been called for by both police and publics around the world.

An important link between crime and punishment can be analyzed statistically through a society’s crime clearance rate. The clearance rate is defined as the number of crimes for which a charge was laid divided by the total number of recorded crimes. A look at the crime clearance rate in the United States by type suggests that clearance rates are higher for violent crimes than non-violent crimes. This is backed up by comparison between clearance rates for violent crime and all crime in Canada, as well as with Finland where the clearance rate for murders, manslaughters and killings has been impressively high.

In regards to incarceration rates, the reputation of the United States as having an unusually high prison population is supported by the data. Incarceration rates of OECD countries show that the incarceration rate in the United States is almost triple that of many of their counterparts. As our infographic shows, these rates have led to the U.S. prison population accounting for more than one fifth of the global total despite the country’s general population share being less than five percent. In the Asia-Pacific region, India and Japan have incredibly low incarceration rates by comparison with 32.2 and 47.7 per 100,000 population respectively in 2014.

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