Homicide Drops to All-Time Low
An "average homicide"?
Is there such a thing as “an average” homicide? What are the most common types of homicide? How can we explain the “masculine” nature of this type of violence? If women do kill, what are their motives? These and other questions on homicide in the Netherlands are answered by Marieke Liem in a series of articles published in NRC, based on her ongoing research at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs.
Homicides are at the lowest point in over twenty years, when we first started accurately counting. With 2014’s total of 134 homicides nationwide in the Netherlands, the downward trend of lethal violence is steadily continuing. These statistics stand in stark contrast with the 1990s, which witnessed an average of 250 homicides per year. The decline has started at the beginning of this millennium and so far does not seem to stop.
Nationwide, most homicides are committed by male offenders. In a forthcoming study, we find that most frequently, in about 5 out of 10 cases, homicides occur between family members, and more specifically between (ex-) partners (3 out of 10 homicides). Almost half of all homicides are committed in a private home. Killings are most frequently committed by means of a firearm (39%) or sharp objects such as knives (36%). Zooming in on geographical location, we see that 4 out of 10 homicides are committed in urban areas such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Even though media attention seems to suggest otherwise, the number of homicides in urban and rural areas alike are decreasing.
The downward trend in the Netherlands shows striking similarity with other Western European countries where comparable declines have been observed. The same accounts for the United States: Although the homicide rate in the US started decreasing a decade earlier, and the level of homicide is still fivefold that of Western Europe, the declining pattern is the same. Several reasons have been put forward to explain this downward trend. These range from changes in alcohol and drug abuse, changes in demographic composition, changes in the rate of crimes being solved, to more absurd potential predictors such as abortion and lead poisoning.