Overall crime rate is calculated by dividing the total number of reported crimes of any kind by the total population, then multiplying the result by 100,000 (because crime rate is typically reported as X number of crimes per 100,000 people).
Crime rates vary greatly from country to country and are influenced by many factors. For example, high poverty levels and unemployment tend to inflate a country's crime rate. Conversely, strict police enforcement and severe sentences tend to reduce crime rates. There is also a strong correlation between age and crime, with most crimes, especially violent crimes, being committed by those ages 20-30 years old.
The overall crime rate in the United States is 47.70. The violent crime rate in the United States has decreased sharply over the past 25 years. Crimes rates vary significantly between the states, with states with such as Alaska, New Mexico, and Tennessee experiencing much higher crime rates than states such as Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
Some of the world's lowest crime rates are seen in Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Japan, and New Zealand. Each of these countries has very effective law enforcement, and Denmark, Norway, and Japan have some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world.
Countries with the Highest Crime Rates*
The countries with the ten highest crime rates in the world are:
- Venezuela (83.76)
- Papua New Guinea (80.79)
- South Africa (76.86)
- Afghanistan (76.31)
- Honduras (74.54)
- Trinidad and Tobago (71.63)
- Guyana (68.74)
- El Salvador (67.79)
- Brazil (67.49)
- Jamaica (67.42)
*All numerical rates are expressed per 100,000 people
For the full ranking of 137 countries, scroll past the expanded top 10.
Venezuela has a crime index of 83.76, the highest of any country in the world. The U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 4 travel advisory for Venezuela, indicating that it is unsafe to travel to the country, and travelers should not travel there. Venezuela's high crime rates have been attributed to reasons including corrupt authorities, a flawed judiciary system, and poor gun control.
2. Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea has a crime index of 80.79. In Papua New Guinea, crime, especially violent crime, is primarily fueled by rapid social, economic, and political changes. Raskol gangs engage in small and large-scale criminal activity and consist mainly of members with little education and few employment opportunities. Organized crime in the form of corruption is also common in major cities and largely contributes to the high crime rate. Additionally, the geography of Papua New Guinea makes it appealing for drug and human trafficking.
3. South Africa
South Africa has the third-highest crime rate in the world. South Africa has a notably high rate of assaults, rape, homicides, and other violent crimes. This has been attributed to several factors, including high levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment, and social exclusion, and the normalization of violence. South Africa has one of the highest rape rates in the world. More than 1 in 4 men surveyed by the South African Medical Research Council admitted to committing rape.
Afghanistan has the fourth-highest crime rate. Crime is present in various forms, including corruption, assassinations/contract killings, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and money laundering. Afghanistan supplied 85% of the world's illicit opium in 2020. The Taliban, which regained control of the country in 2021, has pledged to stamp out the opium industry, but it is such a vital part of the country's struggling economy that it will be difficult to eliminate. Widespread unemployment adds additional fuel for many of the country's crimes, such as robbery and assault.
With a crime index of 74.54, Honduras ranks fifth in the world in terms of crime rate. Honduras's peak of violent crime was in 2012, where the country experienced about 20 homicides per day, typically carried out by gun-toting gangs such as Barrio 18 or Mara Salvatrucha. Honduras is also considered to be a major drug route to the United States. Weak domestic law enforcement has made the country an easy point of entry for the illegal drug trade. The U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 3 travel advisory for Honduras, indicating that travelers should reconsider visiting the country.
6. Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago has the sixth-highest crime rate in the world. Trinidad and Tobago's government faces several challenges in its effect to reduce crime, such as bureaucratic resistance to change, the negative influence of gangs, drugs, economic recession, and an overburdened legal system. There is a great demand for illegal weapons as well, which drug trafficking and gang-related activities fuel. Trinidad and Tobago has a Level 2 travel advisory, meaning that travelers should exercise increased caution. Visitors are typically victims of pickpocketing, assault, theft, and fraud.
Guyana has the eighth-highest crime rate worldwide of 68.74, and a murder rate of about four times higher than that of the United States. Despite a rigorous licensing requirement to own firearms, the use of weapons by criminals is common. Domestic violence happens regularly in Guyana, as the enforcement of domestic violence laws is weak. Armed robberies occur frequently as well, especially in Georgetown. Additionally, tourists are often the victims of hotel break-ins, robberies, and assaults.
8. El Salvador
Organized crime is a massive problem in El Salvador, contributing to most social violence, with its two largest gangs, MS-13 and Barrio 18. There are an estimated 25,000 gang members at large in El Salvador, 9,000 in prison, and about 60,000 young people in youth gangs, which dominate the country. Many gangs have also cultivated relationships, and in some cases territorial disputes, with drug traffickers. In addition to gangs, high unemployment rates and low wages in El Salvador have pushed families into marginalized areas where crimes are common. Property crimes, such as robbery, theft, and theft of vehicles, are the most common.
Brazil has the seventh-highest crime rate in the world with exceptionally high rates of violent crimes. Brazil's homicide rate was 23.6 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020—and it has been as high as 30.8 in previous years. Brazil's most massive problem is organized crime, as organized crime has expanded in recent years, and violence between rival groups is a common occurrence. Drug trafficking, corruption, and domestic violence are all pervasive issues in Brazil.
Finishing the top ten list of countries with the highest crime rates is Jamaica, which is plagued by government corruption, gang activity, and high levels of violent crime, including sexual assault. The U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council describes the Jamaican police force as understaffed and possessed of limited resources. Travelers are advised to especially avoid Spanish Town and parts of Kingston and Montego Bay.