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Buenos Aires Murder Rate Comparatively Low

September 26th, 2010 | Categoría: Politics, Travel

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The murder rate in the City of Buenos Aires is quite low compared with many other major world cities, according to the latest data from Argentina’s Justice Ministry.

Last year 4.92 people were murdered for every 100,000 people in the city. That’s lower than a broad range of major cities (see graph above) except for Toronto, where the rate was just 2.47.

It also means it was safer to live in Buenos Aires last year than in New York City, which had its lowest murder rate on record in 2009.

This should dispel some of the exaggerated claims that Buenos Aires is one of the more dangerous cities in Latin America or in the world. Still, the number is up from 2008, when it was 4.6.

That means the murder rate rose about 7% in just one year. Moreover, while the murder rate rose in Buenos Aires, it either declined or remained stable in the other cities compared.

This should give weight to the widely published claims that the city has become more dangerous or, literally, more deadly.

The Ministry released the data shortly after Justice Minister Julio Alak told members of Congress that overall crime had declined since 2002. But Alak failed to mention that it rose again in 2008.

The Ministry confirmed this just days after Alak testified before Congress, leading critics to say that Alak had lied or misled the public.

In recent years Argentine officials have dismissed claims that crime is getting worse, saying instead that people are simply experiencing “the sensation” that things are getting worse.

Government officials have used the same term to refer to the perception that inflation exists and is worsening. Not only do government officials deny that inflation exists, Economy Ministry Amado Boudou recently said that it “cannot exist” given other macroeconomic conditions.

Whatever the case, at the national level, the latest murder data are from 2008. That year Argentina was safer than just about any other Latin American country except for Chile, though Chile’s data that year offered contradictory numbers, making it hard to know which were accurate.

In any case, apart from Canada and the U.S., where the murder rates were 1.8 and 5.4, respectively, Argentina was the safest country in the hemisphere, according to the Ministry. Argentina’s murder rate in 2008 was 5.8 per 100,000 people.

The rate was almost five times higher in Brazil (26.6 using data from 2006) and about 10 times higher in Venezuela (52) and Honduras (57.9).

Recent polls indicate crime is the issue that most worries Argentines.

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27 Comments

“Government officials have used the same term to refer to the perception that inflation exists and is worsening. Not only do government officials deny that inflation exists, Economy Ministry Amado Boudou recently said that it “cannot exist” given other macroeconomic conditions.”

This quote is extremely humorous, yet sad in the broad spectrum of things for Argentina. Hopefully some political change is coming.

The murder stats however aren’t humorous. In an economic downturn, a rise in violent crime often follows close behind.

LolaNo Gravatar says:

I everyone
Argentinian wordt deffect is lack of pride, althogh many people could think the opposite. Inflation exists, of course, but also exist more jobs, record of manufacturing and selling new cars this year, and the best rate GDP/doub ever existed even better than the one os the USA. Also, the best rate os richeness distribution in south america. Also BUenos Aires as the chart shows has one of the lowest murder rate… I can only say COngratulations to us, we have many things to improve of course, but many things are doing great

I’m calling BS on these numbers. Living here it isn’t too hard to imagine serious and pervasive underreporting of crime statistics. I would love to see a more in depth analysis of these numbers, particularly as it relates to cities in Latin America.

Juan says:

I would really like to see where this stats comes from. Yesterday 14 people were killed in a car “accident”. The driver was transporting more people than he should (by the van characteristics) and the truck he crashed into didn’t have the lights the regulation indicates. There was no control by the transport authorities on this matter either. Does this count as murder for the public stats? or only if a guy comes and shoot you in your face?
I think that lots of murder cases comes unreported too.

taosNo Gravatar says:

Hi Juan,

The government’s murder numbers do not include accidents or other deaths where the death was unintentional.

Taos

taosNo Gravatar says:

Hey Thomas,

I always thought you had cool name!

Reactions like yours are certainly understandable given the government’s track record with the lack of transparent and accurate public data. It’s entirely possible that the murder rate is higher in the city – and the country – and I certainly wouldn’t discard that possibility. However, with inflation and other economic data we have clear, objective means of testing and validating or invalidating the government’s data. Here, as far as I know, this is not the case.

So the question becomes, what objective criteria are you (or we) employing when critiquing the data? If it’s our own personal experience, it may not be enough. I have been robbed at gunpoint on two occasions and the victim of petty crime on many more. Moreover, I know well that other kinds of crime are unusually common. Unfortunately, I hear about specific criminal incidents almost everyone weekend when with family and friends.

But, in general, I have always felt that Buenos Aires is a pretty safe city. For many years I have walked the city up and down countless times at all hours of the day and night and, almost always, felt relatively safe. Yet, my personal experience offers little empirical proof of quantifiable value. Statistically, it’s completely insignificant, virtually immaterial.

I’ve learned to be very skeptical about the veracity of public data, especially economic data. And while you may very well be right about this data in particular, it’s unclear from your comment precisely what justification you give for calling it BS. As you said, accurately, I believe, “it isn’t too hard to imagine serious and pervasive underreporting of crime statistics.”

But just because this is easy to imagine doesn’t mean that it is necessarily the case. Murder is unlike other crime in that it is difficult to cover up on a large scale. You can avoid reporting the theft of your wallet, or even your own kidnapping (this happened to members of my own family), but it’s not so easy to deny someone’s death or fake the numbers.

If I come across more insight into this, I’ll publish it.

Saludos!
Taos

G MirandaNo Gravatar says:

I have to call BS on this as well. It reminds me so much of when a candidate for election somewhere gets 99% of the vote, and they say with a straight face that it was because the people love him, and certainly not because of massive electoral fraud (because electoral fraud does not exist.)

I don’t doubt that Buenos Aires is safer than the media and we, its residents, claim it to be. But there is no way that Argentina is the 3rd safest country in the hemisphere. I would really like to see some independent data and not just some tricked out fantasy numbers from this government.

This tells a different story, for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

DaveNo Gravatar says:

I’m not sure you can say “It also means it was safer to live in Buenos Aires last year than in New York City…” You may be able to say you’re less likely to be murdered in Buenos Aires than in New York City, but there are a ton of other crimes that I would expect are much, much higher here than in NYC (armed robbery, theft, pick pocketing, assault, etc). Most of these go unreported too because people simply do not take the time to bother when they never expect anyone to be caught.

MAMBRU says:

What a a coincidence, we are safer than other cities, but Florence the young girl….
just found out she’s residing in niu iork cidi….like another American girl.
Learning cinema, artistry, and having la boheme of la vida loca…..
Surely it is safer there than here.
Of course she will have to have guards and special security….and the carrer cost 180.000 dollars (perfil)….who will pay for all this?
nosotros of course.
Just make your own final conclusions

AndiNo Gravatar says:

This is encouraging to hear, especially since all of my friends and fiance in BsAs have been complaining how unsafe BsAs has become!!!

andreaNo Gravatar says:

Tell me any major metropolis where crime isn’t getting larger…?
Buenos Aires is a sprawling ,14 million-sized city, hit by recent ‘paco’ drugs consumption,(something like North American 90ies “crack”,and feeding on gun-toting Hollywood fare on TV and film.
What do you expect? Babes in Toyland?!
A world built on consumer rapaciousness and violence is no good, even for Argentina, an otherwise pretty humane and tolerant country. Forget rhetoric and hipocrisy, and face the facts. Modern Cities Breed Discontent, and will likely get worse.

RebeccaNo Gravatar says:

Of course the government will deny crime is increasing. Just tell that to my family and friends down there, they deal with it on a daily basis. My grandmother was beat to a bloody pulp in her own home and left for dead. My uncle’s car stolen in broad daylight right in front of his house. My cousin attacked, tied, locked in a bathroom in the little clothing store where she works by two average-looking women. My grandparents together attacked by two guys armed with knives. The list goes on and on. What about that poor pregnant woman leaving the bank with a large sum of money, was followed, and was shot? She survived, but the baby died. And the government denies it still?

Dani F.No Gravatar says:

You can’t say much about these statistics without looking into them. In fact, I’m stunned with the lack of seriousness with which you treat data. Do you know that more often than not murders happen between people who know each other beforehand? Would you say then, that you should feel safer on the street that at home? Inferring directly levels of safety from murder rates is quite silly. Without more categorization of data, you’re only concluding what you’re mind tells you, you’re feeling the gaps with your own prejudices.

taosNo Gravatar says:

There are a number of problems with the comment you make here, not the least of which is this blanket, non-sensical generalization: “Without more categorization of data, you’re only concluding what you’re mind tells you, you’re feeling the gaps with your own prejudices.”

This post offers a comparison of murder rates in different global cities, not a breakdown of reasons for the rates here or elsewhere. While your point about the relationship murderers may have to their victims is interesting (I’d personally like to know more about this), it’s immaterial to the global comparison made here. If the data are accurate, the comparison holds regardless of this matter.

It would be interesting to know how the reasons for murder in Buenos Aires differ, if they do at all statistically, from those in other world cities. But I don’t see this information broken down within the local data and I’m not sure it’s available at all.

Meanwhile, you don’t offer any reason to question the murder rate itself. The focus of this post is not the “categorization” of murders, but the overall murder rate.

Do you have a specific argument that shows why the comparatively lower rate is inaccurate? If so, I’d like to see it. If not, your comment is mainly empty rhetoric while your point about the origin of most murders seems at least partly irrelevant to the comparative level of “safety,” by which I meant to refer roughly to the most egregious form of bodily harm, namely death.

If a smaller percentage of a population is getting killed, that population, statistically speaking, can be broadly said to be safer than others, even if the proper use of the word is debatable.

It seems like you’re critiquing a different kind of post, one whose focus is distinct from the one offered here, instead of offering insight into the actual murder rate, which is what I addressed. If you have information about this specifically please do share it. In the meantime, see my reply to Thomas’s comment for thoughts on this.

Yanqui MikeNo Gravatar says:

“Do you know that more often than not murders happen between people who know each other beforehand? Would you say then, that you should feel safer on the street that at home?”

Dear Dani,

If there’s a functioning firearm in your home, yes, you are safer on the street …even if you live alone.

Mike

RayNo Gravatar says:

It is likely that particular statistic is used as it is in the USA. Remember every gang killing or drug deal gone wrong is between people who “know each other” and that will always skew the numbers

Mandrake says:

I believe that many times we get robbed by people who knows enough abot us. People who commit the action are not neccesarily the ones we knew before. But people who have enough data about our where abouts and apass the info to the ones ready to come, an” visit”, knowing exactly the places wherewe put money, or valuables let say in the house.
How many of us give the key of the house to the cleanning lady, who comes to work for a couple of hours? while we are at work?
How many more have the entrance key of a building??
How careful are we with our garvage?
The garvage tells almost a person’s life, papers and daily spenditure of food, peronal data, personal information about our work, accounts…etc…
Garvage is the sole richness of any cleanning personnel. They know about us almost anything.
Including our meals preferences, and any imaginable situation of our personal, intimate life. From now on keep a shredder for the papers, and give as less info as possible.
Garvage is a full underworld of information in a critical economical situation like this one.
Change lockers, change keys and do not trust anyone.
If possible do not live housekeepers alone in your house.

Dani F.No Gravatar says:

You’re right taos, I got carried away possibly reading the comments more than the post. My apologies. And I fully agree with your comment to Thomas.
The point I was trying to make, and which I think is important, is that statistics about homicide have to be treated with care. I don’t know the data from Argentina, but data from the US and other countries show what I mentioned in my comment (that murders are predominantly between people who know each other). When we think of murder and murder rates, our mind is full of images that are quite different from the actual most frequent occurrences.
Again, apologies for my tone, just wanted to contribute.

Mandrake says:

Sorry, old decrepit me can not change my free way of thinking.
I can just not trust people…lately
Only a few.
Please take it as an awareness note, and discard just the nasty parts.
Not all housekeepers are bad.
Just do a background check. That is all

Dani F.No Gravatar says:

Check out min 5:35 of this video. Supreme Court judge Zaffaroni about the issue of safety:

Anonymous says:

Taos,

Is it my imagination, or are you posting MUCH less than you used to? I miss seeing your posts on a regular basis.

taosNo Gravatar says:

It’s not your imagination. I’ve been pretty tight on time lately so have been posting less. Hope to get back in the groove now. Thanks for your positive feedback! Appreciate it.

Harvey CohenNo Gravatar says:

The murder capital of the world Caracas, Venezuela is not even on the list. Why?

taosNo Gravatar says:

That’s a good question. This graph was based on data provided by the Argentine government, which didn’t include Venezuela, for reasons unknown to me. I checked a couple of the international numbers to corroborate them but didn’t have time to research all of them. It would be valuable to have the data from Venezuela.

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VincenteNo Gravatar says:

This is just the governments way of dealing with tourism problems. Rather than addressing the problems with tougher laws and enforcement they resort to prapaganda and lies to deceive people to vacation there. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city but don’t be fooled this city is one of the most dangerous cities in the world!

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