By Caribbean News Now contributor
LONDON, England -- Drawing on the latest report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Britain’s Guardian newspaper has published a list of the world’s top ten most populous cities in each country, ranked by the most up-to-date available homicide rates per 100,000 people, with the top five and seven of the top ten located in the wider Caribbean.
The list comprises the most populous cities in each of 137 countries and is not necessarily the capital or the city with the highest murder rate in the country.
However, somewhat unexpectedly topping the list is Basseterre, the capital of the twin-island federation of St Kitts and Nevis, with a 2011 murder rate of 131.6 per 100,000 – over two-and-a-half times that of Kingston, Jamaica, at number ten.
The full list as published by the Guardian is as follows:
1: Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis
(murder rate: 131.6 in 2011)
This tiny Caribbean nation has a high proportion of murders relative to its small population. The total of 17 murders in the capital Basseterre in 2011, the year for which the latest data is available, was up from six the year before.
2: Caracas, Venezuela
(murder rate: 122 in 2009)
Worst hit are the poor barrios where police dare not enter, gangs rule and murders are routine, according to Reuters. The government refuses to release its own statistics, but a Venezuelan Observatory on Violence (VOV) report estimated 24,000 people were murdered in 2013.
3: Guatemala City, Guatemala
(murder rate: 116.6 in 2010)
Guatemala is still battling the legacy of a civil war that raged from 1960 to 1996. With a national average of 99.5 murders a week in 2012, the US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) describes local officials as “often inexperienced and underpaid … [and] unable to cope”.
4: Belize City, Belize
(murder rate: 105.1 in 2011)
The one-time British colony of Belize has the third highest national murder rate in the world. The majority of the homicides take place in the former capital of Belize City where gang violence is rampant, especially on the south side.
5: Tegucigalpa, Honduras
(murder rate: 102.2 in 2011)
Honduras’ homicide rate of 90.4 per 100,000 people is the world's highest. The capital, Tegucigalpa, is the country’s largest city, so features on the UNODC cities list, with 1,175 killings in 2011 – but San Pedro Sula has a higher rate.
6: Maseru, Lesotho
(Murder rate: 61.9 in 2009)
A 2014 OSAC report highlights endemic poverty, high unemployment and steadily declining wages for seasonal and mining workers in neighbouring South Africa.
7: Cape Town, South Africa
(Murder rate: 59.9 in 2007)
Almost two-thirds of Cape Town murders took place in just 10 of the city's 60 police precincts, according to an analysis of 2012 crime hotspots by the Institute for Security Studies. Nationally, South Africa has halved its murder rate since the mid-90s.
8: Panama City, Panama
(Murder rate: 53.1 in 2012)
Violent crime started to rise in Panama in 2007 and topped 800 murders in 2009 – but national rates have been falling since 2010. OSAC ranks Panama as 'relatively safe' for Central America.
9: San Salvador, El Salvador
(Murder rate: 52.5 in 2012)
The Central American country is riddled by powerful street gangs. A truce between the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs helped cut the country's murder rate to a 10-year low of five a day last year – but last month saw national rates double those of a year earlier.
10: Kingston, Jamaica
(Murder rate: 50.3 per 100,000 people in 2011)
The UNODC numbers capture intentional homicide, defined as 'unlawful death purposefully inflicted on a person by another person'. A total of 328 people were murdered in Kingston in 2011 – significantly down on previous years.
Source: UNODC Global Study on Homicide 2013