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Murder rate is double the world average

Bermuda’s per capita murder rate has skyrocketed to almost double the global average in 2011.

Eight people have been violently killed so far this year, giving the Island a rate of 12.5 murders per 100,000 people.

That compares to a world average of 6.9 murders, according to the Global Study on Homicide published last month by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Bermuda’s murder rate is ten times higher than the UK’s and more than double that of the US.

The figure of 12.5 is based on the Island having a population of 64,000, as per the 2010 census carried out by the Department of Statistics.

The UN report reveals that about 40 percent of countries have homicide rates under three per 100,000 population, while in 17 percent of countries it is more than 20 per 100,000.

The study states: “The intentional killing of a human being by another is the ultimate crime. Its indisputable physical consequences, manifested in the form of a dead body, also make it the most categorical and calculable.”

The UN report cites the highest murder rate as 82.1, in the Central American republic of Honduras, and the lowest (0) in Monaco and Palau.

The UK rate is given as 1.2, while the US is five and Canada is 1.8.

In the Caribbean, Jamaica has the highest rate: 52.1. Other Caribbean countries listed include Saint Kitts and Nevis (38.2), Trinidad and Tobago (35.2), Bahamas (28), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (22), Barbados (11.3), Turks and Caicos (8.9), Antigua and Barbuda (6.8) and Anguilla (6.8).

The study gives a rate of 11.7 for the Cayman Islands, based on 2004 data from the Pan American Health Organization.

Recent media reports suggest Cayman, which has a population of about 51,000, is grappling with a similar surge in gang violence to Bermuda.

It suffered a spate of five gang-related murders during a ten-day period in September and an article published in Highbrow Magazine the following month claimed that in the last several years it has experienced “a dozen high-profile murders, [and] a surging crime wave, [which] included the killing of a female rights activist and the death of a four-year-old in a shoot-out.”

The UN study makes plain that Bermuda, so often described as “Another World”, is dealing with the same issues as countless countries around the globe.

The homicide rate here has risen as the use of guns by gangs has dramatically increased, with five of this year’s eight murder victims shot dead. The number of people non-fatally injured by gunfire so far this year is nine.

Statistics on firearms from Bermuda Police Service show a staggering rise in gun attacks between 2007 and 2010, with seven fatalities and 29 people injured last year, compared to two fatalities and one injury in 2007.

According to the UN report, 42 percent of global homicides are committed by firearms. In Bermuda so far this year, the figure is 62.5 percent.

The UN report states: “The role played by firearms in homicide is fundamental and, while the specific relationship between firearm availability and homicide is complex, it appears that a vicious circle connects firearm availability and higher homicide levels.

“Firearms undoubtedly drive homicide increases in certain regions and, where they do, members of organised criminal groups are often those who pull the trigger.”

The study considers who is most at risk of murder, explaining: “In different contexts around the world, membership of certain racial or ethnic minority groups is often strongly associated with above average risks of becoming either a homicide offender or a homicide victim and, in many cases, both.

“More detailed analyses reveal that the underlying reasons for such apparent ethnic or racial patterns in homicide can be found in their correlation with low-income levels, poverty and low socio-economic status.”

In Bermuda, 54 percent of the population consider themselves black, 31 percent consider themselves white and eight percent consider themselves mixed race, according to the 2010 census.

The Island’s population is 52 percent female and 48 percent male but men make up 75 percent of this year’s violent death toll.

Just 12 percent of the population is aged 20 to 29, but 75 percent of those murdered in 2011 fall into that age bracket.

The UN report indicates that the demographic of Bermuda’s murder victims is not surprising, with men making up 82 percent of all murder victims around the globe.

It states: “The next most striking pattern of homicide victimisation is that globally the risk of becoming a victim of homicide is highest for young men in the 15 to 29 age group and declines steeply with age thereafter.

“This overall decline in homicide risk over the course of the male lifetime is a direct reflection of the decreasing involvement, as men age, in high-risk illicit activities such as street crime, gang membership, drug consumption, possession of guns, knives and other weapons, street fighting and other violence-prone activities.”

The study notes that homicide data is far from perfect, adding that comparisons between countries should “always be made with caution” because reporting of statistics varies significantly.

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Published November 21, 2011 at 8:00 am (Updated November 21, 2011 at 8:54 am)

Murder rate is double the world average

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