St. Maarten ranks high with relatively few homicides

POSTED: 06/1/15 10:50 PM

Murder rate data distort reality

St. Maarten – The Caribbean and Latin America together are the murder capital of the world. This appears from data collected by the Brazilian think tank Igarapé Institute that runs the project homicide watch. About one third of all murders worldwide take place in Latin America and the Caribbean, while representing only 8 percent of the world population.

Fourteen countries from the top-20 of countries with the highest number of murders are in Latin America or the Caribbean, NRC Handelsblad reported this weekend. The murder rate is expressed in the number of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. This is how Anguilla ends up high in the global top ten with a murder rate of 35.4 in 2012, even though the country experienced that year only five murders.

Compare that to the true murder capital of the world: Honduras. With more than 7,000 murders, its rate is out of this world with 85.5.

Where does St. Maarten stand in this respect? Because we do not know the exact number of inhabitants, we put that for argument’s sake at around 40,000. With the 18 murders the country experienced in 2011 (when there was a gang war raging between the drug gangsters led by Omar Jones on one side and Hector Arrindell on the other, St. Maarten would also have skyrocketed in the rankings with (2.5 x 18) a rate of 45 per 100,000 inhabitants. For 2014, when there were 10 homicides on the island, the rate is a sturdy 25. For the Netherlands, the rate is just 0.9.

Bringing murder rates under a common denominator – the link to a unit of 100,000 inhabitants – does present a somewhat awkward picture of reality.

Compare for instance St. Maarten’s situation with that of Haiti that scored 10.5 per 100,000 in 2014. In that year, there were 1,132 murders in that country. The number of murders in St. Maarten in that year is below 0.9 percent of the number in Haiti.

Another example of distorted reality is Bolivia: 8.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, but the number of homicides in the country in 2013 was 845.

The data collected by the Igarapé Institute indicate that by far most of the murder victims are men. The percentages per country vary of course, but they vary from the high seventies to in some countries one hundred percent. Also, most of the homicides are committed with firearms.
So how does St. Maarten’s 2014 murder rate of 25 hold up in the region? It is high, for sure. Top of the list is Jamaica with a rate of 44 (1,200 murders in 2013), followed by Belize – at times promoted as an ideal country for investment by St. Maarteners – with 36.2 (123 murders in 2013), Colombia – where quite some locals go for medical treatment – with 33.8 (15,733 murders in 2013) and St. Kitts and Nevis with 33.6 (18 murders in 2012).

The rates and the real numbers diverge enormously, though they do indicate in a way the chance of getting murdered in a particular country. One could for instance argue that the risk of getting murdered in St. Maarten with its rate of 25 is close to 2.5 times higher than it is in Haiti with its rate of 10.5.

Here are the rates for some of the countries from which immigrants to St. Maarten hail: Trinidad and Tobago: 30 (403 murders in 2014), Anguilla 27.7 (4 murders in 2014), Dominican Republic: 20.3 (1,984 murders in 2013), Guyana: 19.4 (155 murders in 2013), Dominica: 16.7 (12 murders in 2013) and Suriname: 5.7 (31 murders in 2014).

Worldwide there were 437,000 murders in 2012 according to the latest available statistics.

Ykje Vriesinga, an editor at NRC’s foreign desk visited San Pedro Sula in Honduras earlier this year. San Pedro Sula is the most dangerous city outside of war zones in the world, NRC reported. Last year its murder rate was 187 per 100,000 inhabitants.

The explanation for this escalation of violence is simple – the same as it was for the spike in murders in St. Maarten in 2011: drugs. Gangs in San Pedro Sula have linked up with the international drugs trade. Gang members are mostly young and they commit contract killings for the drug cartels. In exchange, they receive drugs and weapons.

Vriesinga notes in her report that children as young as 12 work as falcons for the gangs: “They warn when strangers enter a gang’s territory. They get increasingly heavier assignments until they are full-fledged gang members, ready for robbery, extortion and murder.

The rules of the gangs are harsh and simple: drug dealers who do not pay for their cocaine shipment are murdered – together with their families. Neighborhood residents who report gang members await the same fate, as do entrepreneurs who refuse to pay ‘war taxes.”

For more information about global homicide rates go to

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