Travellers beware! If you have plans to travel to South or Central America, the United States or South Africa, be warned – as many tourism experts say: ‘Do not travel alone!’. In these areas and countries are found the 50 most dangerous cities in the world, in terms of crime in general and homicides in particular. True, some of these cities would not be at the top of most peoples’ lists as places to visit, but you may well have to transit them, and that in itself could be dangerous, as car-jackings and kidnappings are as common as outright homicides in many places, and far more lucrative!
Annual statistics correlating information from around the world are produced by CCSP-JP, a Mexican NGO, and the Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian think-tank on security and violence. NOT included are war zones, or cities for which there is little or unsubstantiated data. Only cities which have a minimum of 250,000 people are listed, and both organisations admit the difficulty of comparing statistics between countries, and even between cities in the same country, because of differences in reporting and retention of records, usually as a result of limited resources available. This means that cities with good record-keeping may be unfairly ranked. The rankings are based on numbers of homicides per 100,000.
However, on one statistic there is no disagreement, and that is that the Venezuelan capital of Caracas is top of the list of most dangerous cities. The country as of mid-2016 is suffering through a period of inflation that is touching 200%, with the drop in the oil selling price having a very significant effect on national income – the situation is clearly ripe for an increase in crime. Homicides are at 120 per 100,000 in Caracas, with attendant muggings, theft, drug gangs and street crime very common.
Countries in Latin and Central America dominate world crime statistics, conspicuous in that the areas are notionally ‘at peace’, although there are some encouraging signs. The notorious Colombian city of Medellin is no longer on the list, when just five years ago the homicide rate was over 70. The rate in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula – top of the list for several recent years – has halved, although still over 100. Mexican cities on the list have fallen from 12 to five, also in five years.
Regretfully there are significant downsides too – only eight cities in the ‘top 50’ list are outside Latin and Central America, four in South Africa and four in the USA. El Salvador has taken over from neighbour Honduras as the country claiming the highest murder rate, and its capital San Salvador with a population of 1.8 million has experienced a doubling of the homicide rate to 1900 in just one year. The number of Brazilian cities on the list has risen from 14 to 21 in five years – not a comforting thought for travellers as well as the sporting fraternity visiting for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Somewhat surprisingly considering the unrest and terrorist activity elsewhere on the continent, South African cities figure prominently on the list, with Johannesburg and Cape Town leading the way. The USA’s position is perhaps less of a surprise, considering the prevalence of fire arms frequently reported, along with incidents of mass murder. Baltimore, St Louis, Detroit and New Orleans have all risen on the list from the previous year, with homicides on the rise countrywide.
There is some general good news – regardless of what is frequently highlighted in the media concerning instances of violence around the world, the assessment by both organisations is that it is in fact declining, albeit slowly. Many deaths are currently the result of ‘civil’ conflicts and acts of terrorism, otherwise the world in general has never seen a more peaceful overall environment. Except for in Latin America, violence has declined everywhere in the world in the last five years, and even from the last year.
|Rank||City||Murder Rate (per 100,000)|
|2||San Pedro Sula, Honduras||111.03|
|3||San Salvador, El Salvador||108.54|
|6||Distrito Central, Honduras||73.51|
|9||Cape Town, South Africa||65.53|
|11||Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela||62.33|
|15||St. Louis, U.S.A.||59.23|
|16||Joao Pessoa, Brazil||58.4|
|21||Sao Luis, Brazil||53.05|
|27||Feira de Santana, Brazil||45.5|
|32||New Orleans, U.S.A.||41.44|
|34||Gran Barcelona, Venezuela||40.08|
|36||Vitória da Conquista, Brazil||38.46|
|39||Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil||36.16|
|40||Campina Grande, Brazil||36.04|
|41||Durban, South Africa||35.93|
|42||Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa||35.85|
|43||Porto Alegre, Brazil||34.73|
|47||Johannesburg, South Africa||30.31|