Countries with the Highest and Lowest Crime Rates

A smart and savvy expat or world traveler should do their homework and learn about the countries they travel to. Often, this can mean learning a place’s history, culture and scenic beauty.

Countries with the Highest and Lowest Crime RatesBut there also are some unpleasant, but important, factors to consider, such as crime. Anyone who travels internationally should educate themselves as to crime rates in countries they travel to, the types of crimes that are committed there, and precautions they can take.

Here are the countries with five of the highest, and five of the lowest, crime rates in the world.

Top 5 Countries with the Highest Crime Rates

The United States of America and Canada actually have the highest overall crime rates in the world. That largely has to do with reports of theft and other crimes in major cities, but if you take theft out of the equation, the numbers change.

South Africa

South Africa has the highest murder rate among countries with populations of 35 million people or more. The murder rate since 2011 stayed at around 32 per 100,000 but the number of murders has increased with increases in population. South Africa also has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. AIDS also is a concern there, and it has been reported that if a woman is raped, there is a 25 percent chance her attacker has HIV or AIDS.

Perhaps most shocking of all is that children are often rape victims in South Africa. This is believed to be a result of a myth that having sex with a virgin female cures a man of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Some places in the country even have signs informing people that is not true.

Other crimes committed in South Africa include car hijackings and kidnapping.

Honduras

Crime has been a serious issue in Honduras for years. Gang activity is a major factor, and the country in Central America has the highest murder rate in the world, with more than 90 homicides per 100,000 people, compared to the average of 6.2 percent, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes.

Drugs are a serious issue there, as Honduras is a major drug route to the United States. Its long coastline, and relatively spread-out population, make it a popular route to bring drugs from Central America to the U.S.

Venezuela

Gallup ranked Venezuela as the world’s most insecure nation in a 2013 poll. The United Nations attributes the country’s high crime rate to the poor political and economic environment. Venezuela has a high murder rate, 82 per 100,000 people.

Venezuela also is a key country for drug trafficking, as cocaine and other drugs headed to the U.S. and Europe are routed through Venezuela. Foreigners often are targets for such crimes as murder and kidnapping.

One high-profile crime in Venezuela occurred in January 2014 when former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and her husband were murdered, and their young daughter was shot.

A travel warning from the United States State Department notes that kidnapping in a serious concern throughout Venezuela, and that 80 percent of kidnappings go unreported. Many of these are “express kidnappings,” which last a few hours, but can be very violent, and people who resist attempts at an express kidnapping have been known to be murdered. Some families even set aside ransom money in case of a kidnapping.

Belize

This country has a small population (about 335,000), but a high murder rate, often ranking among the world’s highest murder rates, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Other issues in Belize include human trafficking, drugs, and gang activity. The country also has a reputation as a place where many crimes go unpunished, because of lack of suitable resources to prosecute suspects.

Theft has long been a problem there, but in recent years, more of those burglaries have involved violence, leading to injuries and death.

India

Sexual assault is a major concern in India. More than 33,000 rapes were reported in 2014.

The rate of these assaults is increasing. Rape is one of India’s most common crimes against women. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012, but experts agree that the number of unreported cases of sexual assault brings the total much higher. The latest estimates suggest that a new case of rape is reported every 22 minutes in India.

There also have been some tragic high-profile cases, including the gang rape and murder of two teenaged girls in May of 2014, in which police officers were suspects. A post-mortem examination indicated the girls had been raped and hanged while still alive. But an investigation by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation said there was no evidence of rape, and that the examination was flawed. In March 2015, a 71-year-old nun was allegedly gang-raped. Six men were arrested for the crime.

Riding buses in India can lead to sexual harassment or “eve teasing,” ranging from catcalls, gestures, brushing up against women, groping and molestation. Other crimes in India include gang activity and drug-related crimes. 

Top 5 Countries with the Lowest Crime Rates

On the other end of the spectrum, here are the five countries with the lowest crime rates in the world.

Switzerland

Switzerland is known for its low crime rate. The murder rate there in 2014 was 0.49 per 100,000 people, the country’s lowest rate since Switzerland started keeping those statistics in the 1980s. That low number is despite a population increase from 6.4 million to 8.1 million.

Total offenses registered in 2014 numbered 526,066, with about half of those being committed by foreigners, many of which were theft, including vehicle theft. There were 556 reported rapes in 2014, which represented a three percent decrease.

Singapore

Widely regarded to be the safest country in Asia, Singapore has one of the world’s lowest murder rates (0.3 per 100,000), and violent crime is rare there. A report by the Singapore Police Force stated that there were 175 violent crimes committed in the first half of 2015, a decrease from 315 over the same period in 2014. Statistics for drug crimes also are low, as Singapore is known for its notoriously harsh drug laws. There is an increase in online scams and credit-card fraud.

Iceland

Iceland has been named the world’s most peaceful county by the Global Peace Index, because of its low crime rate, lack of armed forces and political stability. It has one of the world’s lowest murder rates, with just 26 murders being reported from 2000 to October of 2014. Rape is a concern in Iceland, with a 2013 study claiming that of 189 cases of rape reported rapes in 2008 and 2009, just 21 ended with a conviction.

Japan

Japan is one of the safest countries in Asia, and its murder rate of less than one per 100,000 is the lowest among industrial nations. Japan has a population of 127 million, yet street crime is practically non-existent there, and drug use is low. This is largely attributed to the culture of Japan, as being known to use illegal drugs or being sentence to prison would be considered of bad character. Organized crime is an issue in Japan, with organized crime syndicates (known as the Yakuza) being involved in extortion, blackmail, pornography, arson and influencing public officials.

Luxembourg

A small country of 1,000 square miles, and a population under 600,000, Luxembourg has low murder and violent crime rates, thought petty crimes, such as pickpocketing and purse-snatching, are known to happen in tourist areas. Charges of police corruption are rare. Meanwhile, Luxembourg has the highest Gross Domestic Product per capita in 2014, according to the United Nations.

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