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Violent Crime in different parts of the world – a small analysis

August 16, 2007

How does one compare crime statistics of the world if different countries use different methods to compile crime statistics and many manipulate their crime data? And some others under report crimes?

I found out that of all violent crimes, murders were the most likely to be reported with accuracy…and murder data was also least likely to be tampered with. Perhaps that is why I thought that the homicide rate is a good measure of how violent a particular country is. It says here:

A country’s rate of homicide (number of homicides as compared to the population) tends to be viewed by criminologists as a relatively unbiased measure of its level of violence. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that the serious nature of homicide makes it the least likely of all offence types to be unreported and undetected.

I collected the homicide rates of different countries from one source, Nationmaster.com:

Murders per 1000 people, from highest to lowest:

Russia: o.201534
South Africa: 0.0562789
America: 0.042802
India: 0.0344083
France: 0.0173272
Canada: 0.0149063
Britain: 0.0140633
Denmark: 0.0106775
Japan: 0.00499933

Japan has the least violent crime. India doesn’t fare too well. But why am I not comparing the total crime figures, which paint a better picture of India’s crime rate? Well, I don’t trust the total crime figures. But what proof do I have that crime in India or any other country is underreported? And by how much is it underreported anyway? Unless I find that out I won’t get any idea of the actual level of crime in this country.

I found a way to work it out but it’s my own way, and my own theory and you are welcome to give me feedback. I have based my analysis on three assumptions:

1) Homicides are more accurately reported than assaults or rapes
2) Some countries are reputed to report crime more accurately than others
3) There is a relationship between a violent crime like homicide and other violent crimes like assaults and rapes and this relationship is approximately true for all human societies.

If you don’t agree with any of these assumptions, its unlikely that you will agree with my analysis.

I used countries like Germany, Denmark, France and the US as my barometer…of correct crime reporting.

I took the actual numbers from ONE source (nationmaster) but have not given them here due to the clutter it would create. They are available at their site. Also these are NOT the latest figures as it was important to get all the figures from ONE source to get a proper comparison. In any case, as I used the comparisons that I made, the actual figures meant less.

ALL the approximate comparisons, ratios, graph and calculations and analysis is mine. (yep, it took hours to do and opologize in advance for any mistakes). OK here goes:

Data for countries which report crime accurately:

America has:
1) The 177 times more assaults than murders
2) 25 times more assaults than rapes
3) 7 times more rapes as compared to murders.

Germany has:
1) 121 times more assaults than murders
2) 15 and a half times more assaults than rapes
3) 8 times more rapes as compared to murders.

France has:
1) 100 times as many assaults as murders
2) 12 and a half times as many assaults as rapes
3) 8 times more rapes as compared to murders.

Denmark has:
1) 169 times more assaults than murders
2) Almost 20 times more assaults than rapes
3) 8 and a half times more rapes than murders

Tentative conclusions reached:
1) Assaults are a hundred times and more than the murders in these countries
2) Assaults range from 12-25 times more than rapes
3) And almost all these four countries had 7-8 times more rapes than murders

If these ratios are taken as a kind of benchmark (because of their accurate crime reportage), Japan doesn’t compare favorably.
Japan has:
1) Just 67 more assaults than murders
2) 19 times as many assaults as rapes
3) 3 and a half times as many rapes as murders

After I discovered this, I searched the net and found, not surprisingly, that Japan is known to underreport crime. Assuming that the murder figures are better reported, then it means that assaults are underreported. And so are rapes…because inspite of assaults being underreported, the ratio of assaults to rapes seems to match with the four benchmark countries.

In Japan overall violent crime is far less because of the low rate of homicide… but clearly other smaller violent crimes like assault and rapes are not being reported accurately. Japan is known by everyone to be a very safe place.

India’s figures are shocking!
1) There are only about six and a half times as many assaults in India as murders!
2) 15 times as many assaults as rapes.
3) 2 and a half times more murders as compared to rapes.

These statistics look skewed to me. Assaults are usually more than a hundred times that of murders….but in India the figure is only six and a half times!

But not only are assaults underreported in India, so are rapes. Assaults are about 15 times more than that of rapes and this ratio seems to match with the benchmark countries…which shows how inaccurately rapes are reported.

Considering the reluctance of our police to report minor crimes (various reasons like overwork) combined with the reluctance of our public to report smaller crimes to avoid police harassment and the slow justice system, this is not surprising. In India anyway its a known fact that people do not report minor assaults…if they do the police will simply turn them away. Even in cases of serious fights the police do not register cases.

One of the reasons why the number of assaults are so high in the benchmark countries is because at times even trivial incidents (like what happened when actor Russell Crowe was arrested and charged for throwing a telephone at an employee of the Manhattan hotel) are taken into account. I do know know the percentage of such smaller incidents unfortunately…but in the absence of that I have used the total assault figures and related it to the number of murders. In any case, even if one minuses the trivial assault incidents (how many can there be?) India doesn’t look too good. The conclusion I drew about Japan may be wrong though.

In India, it is generally known that rapes are underreported, due to the stigma associated with rape. Japan too is a traditional society and it makes sense if there is a stigma against rape there too.

You will wonder why I am comparing Japan and India…well, that is because I could not get accurate data for China or Pakistan.

What makes the Indian situation worse is that there are two and half times MORE murders as compared to rapes! Now this is impossible. Remember that in the benchmark countries rapes are about 7-8 times more than that of murders. Rapes are more, not murders!! No one knows how many women are raped in India. Why, in our country marital rape is not a crime.

This is a graph I made…showing the number of assaults and rapes for every murder in certain countries. I did not take Britain into account as their assault figures are so high (do not know the reason for this) that it was making the graph a little difficult to read.

I am saying that as the US, Denmark, Germany and France have more accurate assault and rape crime figures than countries like India, South Korea and South Africa…they can be used to show the level of underreporting in other countries.

India scores pretty badly. But remember that:
1) Policing in India is poor (most policemen are on security duty!)
2) Our courts are slow
3) Corruption amongst government officials including magistrates and judges and policemen is rampant.

For these reasons criminals know they can get away with crime, specially if they are well connnected and/or have money to throw around. Considering this, I think our crime rates are not too bad.

Update: 2nd June 2008. The latest statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau has this information on the murders in the world (as mentioned above homicides are usually accurately reported:
India - 32,719
Pakistan – 9,631
United States – 16,692
South Africa - 30,960
Austria – 148
Israel – 177

However as mentioned above these statistics have to be compared to population and when it comes to population and rate of murders per thousand population then India does not score too badly.

There were some other interesting statistics released by this same report and they being the latest I thought I would add them here:

Robberies
Japan – 17,25,072 maximum in the world seems on the higher side to me as Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. People tell me you can leave your door open and go out. Either these statistics are wrong or very minor incidents have been included.
India – 22,814 (only serious cases)
Criminal cases
US – 2,31,13,708
India – 50,26,337 only
Rape/sexual assaults
US – 93,934
South Africa – 54,926
India – 18,359 and 44,159 incidents of sexual offence
But as mentioned above all crime cases or sexual assaults do not always reflect the reality on the ground about the actual crimes committed.

Related Reading: Conviction rates of the world
Social Trust varies from country to country and is connected to crime and corruption
A terrible shortage of police in India
Mob violence in India on the increase
Too many policemen on VIP duty in India
The world thinks of India as a violent country

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2007 10:22 am

    A well researched and analytical post. You(r) blog reminds me of Eagle Scout. :)

  2. August 16, 2007 12:20 pm

    Very good observation Nita.. and I don’t think – As of Now – If we can believe any Crime-data/Stats w.r.t India…

    In india – There are Hundreds of millions still surviving on less than Ruppes 50 a day and Tens of millions still illiterate and unschooled!!… No wonder! Very few of them would dare to face the court. and again Corruption and Slow court is too much to digest… When High profile strong cases are so slow then what about Low profile common public cases. Most cases here are either underreported or being neglected or being surpressed or being too much stretched.

    Read very nice article by Dr. R.K. Raghavan former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation at http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1814/18141030.htm

  3. August 16, 2007 3:52 pm

    Nita, your analysis seems cautious and quite reasonable to me. I am surprised, though, that India ranks as high as it does for murders. I would have guessed it was more comparable to Canada or Britain than to America. I wonder why India has a relatively high murder rate?

  4. August 16, 2007 4:04 pm

    Paul, I have thought about this and to my mind its because of a large rural population where murders are common due to caste and class politics etc. Feudalistic attitudes for example. However it is important to remember that India is a vast country and there are certain parts of India which are more murder prone, for example some dacoit infested areas, insurgency areas, feudal areas. India is not at all homogenous, and therefore an average city guy is much safer than a guy who lives in a disturbed area.

  5. August 16, 2007 5:55 pm

    Very gripping post. I have no comments. Only a clap of appreciation.

  6. August 16, 2007 7:05 pm

    Very interesting analysis. Thanks for posting your thoughts, Nita.

  7. August 16, 2007 7:38 pm

    That was an in-depth research. Police to people ratio in India is about 1:1000 while that in UK it is 1:400 approximately. The police density ratio in urban areas is much lower. Sometimes I really wonder how our country works with so less policing.

  8. August 16, 2007 11:38 pm

    Thanks all of you for the appreciation. It means a lot to me and in fact that is what keeps me motivated. :)
    Priyank, those are interesting stats. Imagine, such a low ratio of police to people ratio! And more than half those policemen are on security duty! Its really a shame and even I wonder how we don’t have more crime. In fact at times I feel its something to do with our belief in after birth and all that sort of thing…destiny and karma. People accept things, their miserable fate I mean. Its my destiny is a common thing you hear from everyone. On one hand it keeps us more peaceful and on the other hand it makes us laid back!

    • akanksha permalink
      January 1, 2011 6:51 pm

      hie nita,, dis is akanksha,iam a student of architecture and doing a thesis over the topic, recreational centers for police..and life of police. for this i need to study in detail. looking at ur article,it seems dat u ve maturedly done a brief study over it.. i want to contact u for d same..please send me a reply on
      akanksha.zonasa@gmail.com

  9. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 17, 2007 6:52 am

    Nita,

    I am very happy that you have drawn attention to underreporting in India. Hope that will save us from a flood of jingoistically self-congratulatory messages from hordes of Mr. Bharats.

    WRT Paul Sunstone’s and Priyank’s messages, it is important to remember that there is a lot of self-policing that happens all the time, which the media do not find sensational enough to report. It is common knowledge, for example, that if in a street brawl there is no actual blow delivered within the first minute or so, the probability of physical violence erupting diminishes very rapidly. Usually the “spectators” who gather at such happenings play an important role in either controlling or encouraging violence.

    So I am really talking about two different kinds of underreporting — to and by the law enforcement agencies and to and by the media.

    If victims were confident that they would get at least a proper hearing, if not justice, more crimes would be reported. This particularly pertains to crimes of a sexual nature, not only extreme crimes like rape but also things such as sexual harrassment at the place of work.

    And the media, I’m afraid, are known to be manipulative. In the recent incident of the young woman in Rajkot who paraded in the streets in her underclothes to protest against maltreatment at home, some highly respected and credible human rights and women’s rights groups who stepped in to help her, found that the extreme step of stripping was not her own idea. She was goaded by the press and TV to do this in order to get more attention for what was otherwise, from their point of view, an insipid story.

    As for the statistics of policemen per 1000 population, even these conceal a lot of de facto underreporting. In Delhi, for example, an inordinate proportion of the police force is at most times engaged in VIP security and related tasks (“bundobust” duty — best pronounced in the old British Raj way: the first ‘u’ as in ‘pull’, ‘d’ and ‘t’ hard). In a city where every two-and-a-halfth person is Sultan of India (and has the “k’nta-a-akts” to prove it), it effectively means that there is very little policing where it really matters. No wonder Delhi is so much more lawless than other big cities in India. And the rest of us, not privileged to live there, should be grateful for small mercies. At least the police don’t make us miss our train or flight just because the cousin of the wife of the deputy minister for civil supplies is about to cross the traffic lights on our route sometime in the next half hour.

    Vivek

  10. August 17, 2007 10:30 am

    Vivek,

    “jingoistically self-congratulatory messages”

    Correct me if I am wrong.

  11. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 17, 2007 11:41 am

    B. Chopra,

    Sorry, I don’t get your point.
    Vivek

  12. August 17, 2007 6:45 pm

    Nita, it’s interesting that rural areas in India are less safe than urban areas. In America it’s just the opposite. If you want your kids to be safe, you move to a suburb — or even better, you move to a rural town. For instance: I grew up in a rural farming community that had only one recorded murder in 125 years. It was safe for even a young woman to walk anywhere alone in that town at anytime of day or night. We only locked the doors at night: During the day, we left them unlocked even if we were not home. Nowadays that town has become a suburb of a larger, growing city and the crime rate has risen, although it still is nowhere near as dangerous as the city itself is.

  13. August 17, 2007 6:53 pm

    Very very interesting! Come to think of it rural India has problems of poverty, a lot of poverty! There is also a strong caste system and people of lower castes become vulnerable and are often victims. The caste tensions often flare up here while in urban india the caste divide is much less. Also because of our population land has got divided and farmers are mostly small farmers…there are also landlords who make their land users work, there is land grabbing etc…whew, a lot of problems and I have barely scratched the surface!
    not that we can leave our doors unlocked in cities! but the nature of crime is different. While in rural areas its about land and money and potlics and caste and crime often is by people whom one knows…in urban india there is the problem of burglaries, chain snatchings etc. but thankfully we rarely have serial killings and burglaries are most of the time non-violent. but i feel this is going to change…

  14. August 18, 2007 12:13 am

    I read this yesterday and found your analysis totally fascinating!

    As to why overall crime rate statistics are unreliable etc: did you have a gut feel theory, and then figured out a way to validate it? If so, it must have been quite thrilling and satisfying to find that. Thanks for an excellent article.

  15. August 18, 2007 7:40 am

    Thanks Arun. Actually I knew that rape statistics were unreliable as there have been reports in the newspapers about how women were reluctant to report rapes but at the same time I have also read people quoting rape stats as if they were the holy grail! Another thing…I had read about the UP police fudging statistics and also we get reports off and on about police not registering cases.
    What I wanted to know was whether only India was like this or were other countries like this too?
    But if you ask me, I did not know what I would come up with when I started my research. I had no idea that murder statistics could be more reliable until I collected all the crime figures of all the countries. But the minute I realised that, I knew that I had a reference point. Also I knew that there had to be a co-relation between the different kinds of violence. Many studies have shown that rape itself is a crime of violence, not sex. And assaults…ofcourse.
    And you are right, I was totally immersed in this and this was what I was talking about all the time…it became our dining table conversation for a while! Got my whole family hooked :)

  16. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 18, 2007 9:12 am

    Nita,

    You suggest that “rape is a crime of violence, not sex”. I believe the reality is somewhat more complex than that. For some men with low self-esteem, sick minds, and possibly no opportunity for consensual sex, it could in fact be a crime of sex.

    You are basically right in saying that it is primarily a crime of violence. But not just the kind of violence that erupts as a fit of rage. It seems to be often motivated by a desire to humiliate, punish or terrorise — either the woman herself, or her husband, her kin, or even her whole community which, for the rapist, may be an object of a hatred that he can express only in such a psychopathic manner.

    It can also be an expression of desire to dominate by a person with a deep inferiority complex. In this sense it is not very different in spirit from forcibly imposing aspects of one’s own culture (language, religion, value systems, cuisine, apparel etc.) on others. As you would know, the word is often figuratively used with this meaning.

    Incidentally, rape originally (1250-1300) meant (a) plunder and (b) forcibly abducting and carrying off a woman. The sense of forcible sexual intercourse was attached to the word only towards the end of the 15th c. Shakespeare’s narrative poem, “The Rape of Lucrece”, written nearly a century later, is perhaps the best known early example of the word used with this meaning. And yet, more than two centuries later, we have Alexander Pope’s “Rape of the Lock”, in which again the word is used in a gentler sense.

    I was once asked if the Mahabharata, which is supposed to be a comprehensive depiction of all that is noble as well as vile in human nature (“Vyasochchhishtam jagat sarvam”) has any incident of rape. I could not immediately think of any, though the humiliation of Draupadi by Duryodhana and Duhshasana could be interpreted as attempted rape.

    Going further back to the Ramayana, people cite the Ahalya story. But there are enough indicators, implicit in Valmiki’s original and explicit in other versions, to suggest that Ahalya’s was a willing indiscretion. In fact the Panchkanyas of legend — of whom Ahalya is one — all seem to have been strong, independent-minded women who voluntarily engaged in sexual acts which, by today’s value system would either be considered immoral or rationalised as rape by the other party.

    I would certainly be interested if anyone can help me with an answer to the query about the Mahabharata. It is interesting that although the epic is considered representative of a more morally decadent epoch than the Ramayana, when you take the Panchakanyas into account, only two of them are from the Mahabharata; three are from the Ramayana.

    Pardon this rather meandering comment, but it would be of more than academic interest to know how ancient Hindu tradition views rape.

  17. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 18, 2007 9:34 am

    Corrigendum to my last post:

    …Alexander Pope, MORE THAN A CENTURY LATER (not “two centuries later”).

    Vivek

  18. Meenu permalink
    August 19, 2007 3:23 pm

    Nita…its a wonder that we dont have civil war here in india…at least in the cities where the rich-poor divide is so enormous and so blatantly evident…
    I look at the well mannered and genteel and paltrily paid driver driving a CEO or a businessman and i wonder what keeps him content and keeps him from revolting..

  19. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 19, 2007 9:53 pm

    Meenu,

    We certainly will. It is even more blatant between urban and rural areas, and unbelievable in the agriculturally prosperous rural areas. To make matters even worse, the megacorporates (whether transnational or Indian) invading every sector of the economy and marginalising the small players are going to make things horrific.

    I think your post is very appropriate on this thread devoted to violent crime.

    Vivek

  20. August 21, 2007 3:26 pm

    Vivek, I am been trying to answer your question but I admit its far too difficult. But if you ask me I believe that rape did exist in hindu society and has existed in all societies. Because crime has and always will as long as there are sick people around. It might interest you to know that I have written a post on Why men rape.
    Frankly if you ask me rape has nothing to do with religion or culture…it is a crime of evil and evil people exist in all cultures. I know you weren’t saying this exactly…but even your question of how Hindu society views rape I think women’s honour would be be questioned. Wasn’t Sita’s honour questioned when she was abducted by Ravan? She did not go willingly and even though he did not rape her, her ‘purity’ was sullied. It is clear that Indian society is still like this even after centuries. A regressive backward mentality which is unforgivable in modern times. The attitude toward women is what I detest in Indian ‘culture.’

  21. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 21, 2007 5:51 pm

    Nita,

    I don’t think I was even vaguely suggesting that rape did not exist in Hindu society — ancient, mediaeval, whatever. Despite overwhelming clamour to the contrary from some quarters, I do not believe we are in any way more saintly than any other society on earth. My query was limited to the specific question about the Mahabharata. Admittedly I did meander considerably from the point (the hazard of being more a conversationalist than a blogger) and may have miscommunicated my point.

    I just read through the post your link leads to. I am not competent to comment on the Cohen and Seghorn findings based on the newspaper report from which you have abridged it. I do think, though, that the Rapist Profile given there (in terms of age group and social class) seems too simplistic, and the sample size too small, to apply to the Indian context. I believe there is a very much higher incidence of unreported cases in India than there is in the west. And even in the west, specific categories such as date rape or marital rape are, I am sure, underreported. In England, where I was a student in the 70s, I was horrified to see the number of newspaper reports of men accused for rape being let off by courts based on the claim that the rapist “genuinely believed that the woman wanted it!” And this in trials by jury!

    A particularly sick aspect of India in modern times is the way many Indian males seem to think that women from allegedly permissive societies (Westerners — particularly white; our own tribals; divorcees; young or even not-so-young widows etc.) are “available” and therefore ok to rape. And sometimes I feel our court rulings condone and serve to reinforce this attitude.

  22. August 21, 2007 6:11 pm

    Vivek, yes I was not sure of what you were asking.
    Anyway, ALL studies have their limitations, that is always taken for granted. But if you are saying that the study is limited in its findings, ofcourse all studies are. But they give us a pointer and a starting point for discussion.
    btw, that article was written by me for The Telegraph. All newspaper articles published on this blog are written by me. I abridged it because I had interviewed a lot of people for the article and felt it was diffusing the issue.
    I think perhaps I should make it clear in each post where it is a published article of mine…I have written it on the main page but people miss it.

  23. April 5, 2008 12:33 am

    I have spent already more than three years in India – and as a non-Indian, (European) very much liking the subcontinent, I have too long overestimated the safety of India. It is not. The general impression I have now has three basic elements : 1. the extreme lack of law application 2. the extreme ridiculisation of womens rights by men and 3. the lack of personal emotional stability and a set of decent human moral ethics with the individual. EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION OF MEN AND WOMEN

  24. Abdullah K. permalink
    June 14, 2009 7:52 pm

    @ Meenu – “I look at the well mannered and genteel and paltrily paid driver driving a CEO or a businessman and i wonder what keeps him content and keeps him from revolting..”

    Cultural programming. Or as chauvinist North Indians call it, “sanskaar”. At other times it is the fear that if they incite violence against their rich masters, their families will have to bear the retribution.

  25. Phil Walton permalink
    November 22, 2010 4:01 pm

    In India most of the violence is between people known to each other. Indians are unlikely to start a fight with an able bodied man. The weak are very much targeted here, women and poor. You are unlikely to get mugged in India, but yes, India is very violent but this is largely hidden from visitors for whom India is a relatively safe country. You are right that crime is under reported.

  26. ramesh permalink
    December 31, 2012 8:18 pm

    Miss Nita , Please present data with other counteries with India per 1000/year basis of diff crimes I think India will in lowermost in the table.

  27. ambrosia permalink
    February 21, 2013 2:45 am

    I don’t know about India but I have lived in Japan for many years and can tell you that people who are the victims of crime will often not report those crimes to the police for a number of reasons. The Kempeitai, which was like the German Shutzstaffel or Secret Police did a lot to sew mistrust in the civilian population and were generally hated. Though they were disbanded after WWII, the distrust of police didn’t necessarily change. According to some polls, up to 70% of Japanese questioned claim to not trust the police. The distrust has not been helped by a series of scandals involving the police. So many scandals have come to light that the JNPA has considered using lie detectors on young recruits. The police are also seen as more of a community help agency rather than a crime solving one which is why they are often inundated with non-emergency calls to their emergency line. There is no national FBI or Scotland Yard type of agency in Japan and there is a lack of national coordination on crimes which might otherwise be considered serial. Many Japanese don’t think the police can or will do anything about crimes anyway, especially burglary and sexual crimes, so they don’t report them. Additionally, Japan has one of the lowest rates of forensic autopsy in the industrial world so what may end up being considered murders / homicides in other countries are far more likely to escape prosecution in Japan.

  28. Bob Harrison permalink
    May 7, 2013 2:36 am

    The make-up of society affects the rates. Homogeneous populations tend to have lower rates with exceptions of course. The availability of guns could make a difference as to whether an attack becomes a homicide or an assault. Lots and lots of variables, even if you were to look at just the U.S. An area with mainly one ethnicity may have a low crime rate in one city, and a high crime rate in another.

    Very good analysis here. What would be interesting is to take ethic communities in the U.S. and compare crime rates with the home country.

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