Violent crime is a crime in which an offender or perpetrator uses or threatens to use harmful force upon a victim. Although the exact list varies from country to country, violent crimes can include murder, assault, battery, sexual assault, rape, kidnapping, homicide, manslaughter, robbery, and other crimes associated with the use of force (arson, harassment, negligence). Violent crime encompasses not only crimes in which the violent act is the main objective, such as in cases of murder or rape, but also crimes in which violence is the means to an end, such as robbery or extortion.
Violent crime rates vary greatly between countries. Although there is rarely a clear reason why crimes are committed, there are numerous factors that are known to affect crime rates. Countries with high crime rates typically have high poverty levels and low job availability, conditions likely to force people into riskier, more desperate, and morally questionable solutions (which are often further enabled by underdeveloped law enforcement agencies). Crime rates tend to be lower in countries with favorable living conditions (wealthy), straight police enforcement, and tough sentences for crimes. There is also a strong correlation between age and crime. Most crimes, especially violent crimes, are committed by those aged 20-30.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's 2019 Global Study on Homicide, 464,000 people died from violent crimes in 2017. The report states that countries with high firearm rates have higher intentional homicide rates.
Some of the lowest violent crime rates can be seen in Europe. Many European countries have violent crime rates of less than 1 incident per 100,000 people. These countries have stricter gun laws and less gun ownership, as well as effective law enforcement.
Comparing violent crime statistics between two different countries, states, or regions can be a challenging process. The main issue is that "violent crime" is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of offenses—and every country (or state or region) has its own list of which crimes are included, its own definition of each crime, and its own methods of reporting and recording those crimes.
For example, some countries may consider arson a violent crime, while others may not. Some countries may make it very easy for a victim to report a violent crime, whereas others may not (rape in particular tends to go unreported in some societies). One country may define a crime one way while another country defines it much differently, turning what initially appeared to be an apples-to-apples comparison into an apples-to-pretzels mismatch. Finally, one country may have comprehensive procedures for tracking crime statistics and releasing annual updates, and another may have a much less robust system.
Because of variations such as these, all-encompassing global tallies of violent crime as a whole are rarely helpful, or even available. However, when the numbers are decompiled into individual violent crimes–such as the [murder rate by country]–the datas get a bit more reliable and useful (though still not perfect).
* Incidents per 100,000 people - United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2018
** Per 100,000 people. Listed rates include only those offenses that are reported to the police.
Rape statistics by country perfectly illustrate the challenges that make country-to-country data difficult to compare. Rape stats are confounded by several factors. To begin with, an overwhelming majority of rapes go unreported–up to 90% by some estimates–particularly in countries in which rape victims may be ostracized or even slain by their own families in an honor killing.
What's more, different countries have vastly different definitions of rape, some of which are much narrower than others. For example, some countries consider spousal rape to be a non-crime, or count every occurrence of rape between the same two people (say, an uncle and niece) as a single offense. In these countries, fewer acts qualify as rape, and even those that do are likely to go unreported.
Sweden, on the other hand, has a very broad definition of rape and excellent support for the victims. This means more crimes qualify as rape and the victims of those acts are more likely to report the crime. As a result, Sweden's rape rate seems to be quite high. However, this is a misleading assumption. In fact, Sweden would land near the middle of the pack in Europe if one were to apply Sweden's forward-thinking definition of rape to every other country as well. On the other hand, the frequency of rape in most other top-10 countries (except Australia, whose definition is already quite broad) would likely be much higher if they adopted Sweden's definitions and reporting/support systems.
*** Incidents per 100,000 people - United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2018
The country with the most violent crimes in the world is El Salvador.