Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The List: Murder Capitals of the World

(Interesting as it may be, notice how this article confines itself to liberal "solutions", so little is made of significant generative factors such as institutionalised racism and the need to redistribute wealth on a more equitable basis).

Reliable global crime statistics are hard to come by, but here are five cities that stand in a class all their own when it comes to brutal, homicidal violence.

Caracas, Venezuela
Population: 3.2 million

Murder rate: 130 per 100,000 residents (official)
What’s happening: The capital of Chávez country, Caracas has become far more dangerous in recent years than any South American city, even beating out the once notorious Bogotá. What’s worse, the city’s official homicide statistics likely fall short of the mark because they omit prison-related murders as well as deaths that the state never gets around to properly “categorizing.” The numbers also don’t count those who died while “resisting arrest,” suggesting that Caracas’s cops—already known for their brutality against student protesters—might be cooking the books. Many have pointed the finger at El Presidente, whose government has failed to tackle the country’s rising rates of violent crime. In fact, since Chávez took over in 1998, Venezuela’s official homicide rate has climbed 67 percent—mostly due to increased drug and gang violence. Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, who recently resigned as interior minister, claimed in July that homicide has dropped 27 percent since January—but experts say he’s just playing with numbers. As for Caracas, some speculate that its murder rate is closer to 160 per 100,000.

Cape Town, South Africa
Population: 3.5 million
Murder rate: 62 per 100,000 inhabitants
What’s happening: A European bastion in the heart of turbulent South Africa, picturesque Cape Town nonetheless has the country’s highest murder rate. The city’s homicides usually take place in suburban townships rather than in the more upscale urban areas where tourists visit. According to the South African Police Service, most of the Cape Town area’s violent crimes happen between people who know one another, including a horrific case last year in which four males doused a female friend in gasoline and lit her on fire. Occurring just outside city limits, the incident apparently happened after the assailants had taken hard drugs, the use of which has risen along with Cape Town’s violent crime rate. The whopping 12.7 percent rise in the city’s murder rate from 2006 to 2007 certainly has local politicians worried, especially as South Africa prepares to host the 2010 World Cup. The government has hired more police officers to prepare for the tournament, which could help cut crime in soccer-fan hot spots. But until better efforts are made to police Cape Town’s poverty-stricken townships, it’s unlikely that the murder rate—an average of 5.9 per day—will see any major drop.

New Orleans, United States
Population: 220,614 to 312,000 (2007); estimates vary due to displacement of people after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Murder rate: Estimates range from 67 (New Orleans Police Department) to 95 (Federal Bureau of Investigation) per 100,000
What’s happening: With its grinding poverty, an inadequate school system, a prevalence of public housing, and a high incarceration rate, the Big Easy has long been plagued with a high rate of violent crime. Katrina didn’t help. Since the hurricane struck in 2005, drug dealers have been fighting over a smaller group of users, leading to many killings. On just one four-block stretch of Josephine Street, in the city center, four people were murdered in 2007 and 15 people shot, including a double homicide on Christmas day. A precise murder rate is hard to pinpoint because the population is swelling quickly, approaching its pre-Katrina numbers. Whether you use New Orleans’s own figures or the FBI’s, however, the city remains the most deadly in the United States, easily surpassing Detroit and Baltimore with 46 and 45 murders per 100,000 people, respectively.

Moscow, Russia
Population: 10.4 million

Murder rate: 9.6 per 100,000 (estimate)
What’s happening: Moscow’s murder rate is nothing compared with that of Caracas or Cape Town, but the city still ranks way above other major European capitals. London, Paris, Rome, and Madrid, for instance, all had rates below 2 murders per 100,000 in 2006. The Russian capital’s homicide rate is down 15 percent this year from last, but the recent surge in hate crimes—including the deadly beating of a Tajik carpenter by a gang of youths on Valentine’s Day—suggests that the lull might be temporary. Sixty ethnically motivated killings have already happened this year, part of a sixfold increase in hate crimes committed in the city during 2007. Several of the murders have been attributed to ultranationalist skinhead groups like the “Spas,” who killed 11 people in a 2006 bombing of a multiethnic market in northern Moscow. The Russian government has finally stepped up to combat the problem, assisting migrant groups and cracking down on street gangs. Still, the continued rise in extremist attacks is worrisome. And along with migrants, journalists and other high-profile people in Moscow might also want to be a little wary in Russia—62 contract murders took place in the country in 2005, according to official statistics.

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Population: 254,200 (2000 census)
Murder rate: 54 per 100,000 (2004 official figure)
What’s happening: The capital of island country Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby might seem like a surprising addition to this list. But its high violent crime rates, along with high levels of police corruption and gang activity, helped earn the city the dubious title of “worst city” in a 2004 Economist Intelligence Unit survey. With gangs called “raskols” controlling the city centers and unemployment rates hovering around 80 percent, it’s easy to see how Port Moresby beat out the 130 other survey contenders. Port Moresby’s police don’t seem to be helping the crime situation—last November, five officers were charged with offenses ranging from murder to rape. And in August, the city’s police barracks were put on a three-month curfew due to a recent slew of bank heists reportedly planned inside the stations by officers and their co-conspirators. Rising tensions between Chinese migrants and native Papua New Guineans are also cause for alarm, as are reports of increased activity of organized Chinese crime syndicates.

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