Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2012
 
   
D. Poverty and insecurity
 
D.4. Crime

Crime, the application of the rule of law and the strength of the criminal justice system have a profound impact not only on the victims of crime and injustice but also on the economic and social development of a society as a whole. High crime rates and a weak or ineffective criminal justice system hamper economic development and reduce both the quality of life and the confidence that people need in order to invest in their neighbourhoods and businesses.

The impact of crime is particularly profound in countries with inadequate social protection, such as affordable health care and insurance. Victims of crime in these countries are less able to recover physically from violent crime or financially from property crimes.

Homicide rates in Asia and the Pacific are among the lowest in the world.

The annual homicide rate for Asia and the Pacific will vary year by year depending on the countries for which data are available, but the general trend is that homicide rates are decreasing. In 2010, the homicide rate for the region was 2.7 per 100,000 – approximately half of the global average of 5.1 per 100,000 – and included countries with some of the lowest homicide rates in world. Indeed, the three lowest homicide rates provided by countries/areas for 2011 were from Asia and the Pacific, namely: Japan (0.3 per 100,000); Singapore (0.3 per 100,000); and Hong Kong, China (0.2 per 100,000).

Figure D.4-1
Homicide rates, world regions, 2011 or latest year

Figure D.4-1 Homicide rates, world regions, 2011 or latest yearThe highest homicide rates in the region are found in the countries of North and Central Asia. Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation, for example, have annual homicide rates above the global average. However, rates have fallen substantially in this subregion, driven mostly by a fall in homicide rates per 100,000 in the Russian Federation from 17.7 in 2005 to 9.7 in 2011.

Figure D.4-2
Trends in homicide rates, Asia and the Pacific, 2005-2011

Figure D.4-2 Trends in homicide rates, Asia and the Pacific, 2005-2011There are many factors that may affect homicide rates, but the link between homicide and development is one of the clearest. Higher homicide rates are associated with low human and economic development. This is borne out by comparisons of homicide rates in developed and developing countries in Asia and the Pacific. Long-term declines in the homicide rates in both groups have coincided with periods of economic growth, but homicide rates in developing countries were more than five times higher in 2010 than they were in developed countries, despite having fallen further in recent years.

Figure D.4-3
Homicide rates, developing and developed countries in Asia and the Pacific, 2005-2011

Figure D.4-3 Homicide rates, developing and developed countries in Asia and the Pacific, 2005-2011Countries with higher homicide rates also tend to have higher robbery rates.1 Thus, the comparison of homicide rates across Asia and the Pacific may also serve as a reasonable proxy for violent crime in general.

Note: The substantial increase in the homicide rate for developing countries in 2008 was due to the availability of data for countries with higher than average homicide rates, such as Indonesia, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea for that year only.

Most homicide victims in Asia and the Pacific are male.

Globally, about 80 per cent of homicide victims are male. This is consistent with the countries of Asia and the Pacific, where, on average, males account for about 75 per cent of victims. The distribution of male and female victims, however, does vary substantially across countries.

Figure D.4-4
Percentage of all homicide victims that were male, latest year available (2008-2010)

Figure D.4-4 Percentage of all homicide victims that were male, latest year available (2008-2010) In Cambodia, Maldives, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste for instance, over 90 per cent of homicide victims are males, while in Brunei Darussalam, Japan and Republic of Korea, the figure is closer to 50 per cent.

Homicide rates are disproportionately high for men because they are more likely to be engaged in high-risk, violent activities that tend to increase homicide rates. According to figures published by the UNODC2, the chances of being a victim of homicide peak for younger men and reduce as involvement in violent activities, such as street crime, gang membership, drug consumption, possession of weapons and street fighting, decreases.

In contrast, homicide rates for women tend to be far more evenly distributed over age groups due to their lower exposure to these high-risk, age-specific activities, and they are more often the victims of intimate partner or family violence.

Box D.4-1
Patterns of homicides and dowry deaths in India

The National Crime Records Bureau of India keeps detailed criminal justice data on the number of homicide victims by sex, age and motive. In 2009, out of a total of 33,159 recorded homicide victims in India, 8,718 (26 per cent) were female, which is about the same as in previous years. Some of these killings relate to disputes over dowry payments or violent demands for higher payments from the families of brides or brides-to-be. Although the payment of a dowry has been illegal in India since 1961, the practice remains common. Among all female victims of recorded homicides, 1,267 (about 15 per cent) were recorded as dowry-related killings.

The police can record killings as “dowry deaths” under a separate section of the Indian Penal Code.a These are deaths of women within seven years of their marriage for which circumstantial evidence provides a strong suspicion of a dowry-related killing. In 2009, the police recorded 8,383 dowry deaths of women and girls, so the total number of homicides linked to dowries in 2009 was 9,650,b which is 56 per cent of all female victims of violent killings including dowry deaths (17,101). The reported number of dowry deaths has been increasing for many years. While homicide levels steadily decreased between 1995 and 2009 (by 31 per cent), the rate of recorded dowry deaths increased by more than 40 per cent in the same period. This increase might be partly due to more accurate recording by the police when there are suspicious deaths, and partly due to increased awareness and determination to address the issue. However, it is likely that, in addition to officially recorded dowry-related homicides and dowry deaths, an unknown number of deaths related to dowry remain undetected because they are often recorded as accidents or suicides.

Homicide rates and dowry death rates in India, 1995-2009

Homicide rates and dowry death rates in India, 1995-2009



Source:
National Crime Records Bureau of India.

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011 Global Study on Homicide: Trends, Contexts, Data (Vienna, 2011).
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a Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code specifies that “where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called ‘dowry death’ and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death”.
b This is the sum of dowry-related killings (1,267) and dowry deaths (8,383) for 2009.
One quarter of the world’s estimated prison population is held in China and the Russian Federation.

The prison populations of China (1.64 million) and the Russian Federation (756,000) in 2011 are the second and third largest in the world behind that of the United States and account for about one quarter of the world’s estimated total prison population of about 9.8 million.3

Prison populations and prison population rates reflect to varying degrees the levels of crime, criminal justice policy and adherence to the rule of law in a country and have a substantial and often underestimated social and economic impact. High prison rates can, for example, result in long-term economic problems if they lead to income inequality and more concentrated poverty, particularly if prison rates are highest for vulnerable groups, such as the young, the poor, the poorly educated or minorities.

The average (unweighted) prison population rate for Asia and the Pacific is 205 per 100,000 population based on the latest figures available – more than three times lower than the rate of 730 per 100,000 in the United States. However, prison rates in the region vary substantially; for example, they are 17 times higher in Georgia (544 per 100,000) than in India (31 per 100,000).

Figure D.4-5
Prison population rates by subregion, latest year (2006-2011)

Many of the countries with the lowest prison population rates are low-income economies or lower-middle-income economies, including India (31 per 100,000), Bangladesh (47 per 100,000) and the Philippines (64 per 100,000). This may in part be due to the substantial investment of resources required to keep a person in prison and to maintain an effective criminal justice system.

Box D.4-2
Difficulties in comparing conventional crime statistics

analysis and dissemination of information on crime and criminal justice is a prerequisite for effective crime prevention. However, most crime statistics are derived from data recorded by the police, and the accuracy of these statistics and their consistency with those of other countries depends on four key factors:

  • How offences are defined by national legislations.
  • How offences are counted and recorded.
  • The confidence victims have in law enforcement and their willingness to report crime.
  • The capacity of the authorities to detect crime.

It is beyond the scope of statistics to account for differences in the capacity of the authorities to detect crime, but the first three issues can be addressed through best practices in maintaining administrative data and conducting random surveys.

The annual collection by UNODC of administrative crime data from States Members of the United Nations focuses on categories of conventional crimes that have particular relevance for policymakers and where definitions are most consistent. However, the rates of response to this survey have been as low as 25 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, and the crime rates reported can vary substantially. For example, the rate of robbery in India is typically 60 times lower than that reported by the Russian Federation. Some of this difference may reflect the “true” higher rate of robberies in the Russian Federation, but differences in reporting practices will also have an unquantifiable impact. For this reason, most comparative analyses of crime across countries focus on trends rather than on crime rates.

Even international comparisons of homicides, which are defined reasonably consistently across countries, and where crime rates are more routinely presented, should be made with some caution. For example, if a victim of a punch to the face dies, some countries will record the offence committed as manslaughter and others as intentional homicide. There can also be large variations in the homicide levels reported for the same country from different sources.

Variation in reported robbery rates for the 14 Asian and Pacific countries and areas, 2011

Variation in reported robbery rates for the 14 Asian and Pacific countries and areas, 2011An international classification for statistical purposes could harmonize the way offences are defined and thus improve international comparability. Such a classification should not be aimed at standardizing national penal legislation but rather at defining and classifying offences in a uniform way purely for statistical purposes. This work is currently under way as mandated by the Statistical Commission and led by UNODC.

However, differences in the willingness of victims to report crimes will continue to distort comparisons of police-recorded figures even after the way they are counted and recorded is standardized. Crime victimization surveys are an alternative source of comparable data on conventional crimes not biased by a victim’s trust in law enforcement or lack thereof. These surveys are often used to supplement and complement administrative statistics on conventional crimes, and they provide a more reliable estimate of the true crime rate and trends. The Manual on Victimization Surveysa covers a wide range of issues related to planning and implementing a victimization survey and is intended to aid standardization.

A full analysis of the issues in producing comparable statistics on conventional crimes, as well as nonconventional crimes such as cyber-crime and corruption, was presented by UNODC and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography of Mexico at the forty-fourth session of the Statistical Commission in 2013. Their report on a road map to improve the quality and availability of crime statistics at the national and international levels (E/CN.3/2013/11) was welcomed by the Statistical Commission, and the activities presented in the road map were supported.b

____________________
a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Manual on Victimization Surveys (Geneva, United Nations, 2010).
b See the report of the Statistical Commission on its forty-fourth session (Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 2013, Supplement No. 4 (E/2013/24-E/CN.3/2013/33), Decision 44/110).
In some developing countries in the region, prisons have high levels of overcrowding and a high proportion of people held untried or pretrial.

In addition to the volume and rate of people held in prison, there are other aspects of a country’s incarceration policy that also have strong socioeconomic implications. Those incarcerated in overcrowded prisons are at far greater risk of violence and communicating or catching diseases, which can, in turn, be passed back into the wider community. At the same time, excessive and arbitrary pretrial detention undermines the rule of law in a country, deepens poverty and stunts economic development. Furthermore, the individuals held and not yet proven to be guilty may lose their jobs, their homes and their ability to provide for their families.

The problems of prison overcrowding and of the proportions of prisoners held pretrial often go hand in hand. In Asia and the Pacific, Bangladesh, India and the Philippines are particularly affected, with occupancy rates ranging from around 125 per cent of capacity to 300 per cent of capacity, and pretrial detention rates above 60 per cent of all prisoners.

Figure D.4-6
Relationship between pretrial detention and overcrowding, latest year (2006-2011)

Figure D.4-6 Relationship between pretrial detention and overcrowding, latest year (2006-2011)As observed with low prison rates, these problems are found in low-income economies and lowermiddle- income economies. It is often more expensive for the State to keep someone in prison than for a parent to send a child to an elite private school, and pressure for scarce government resources combined with voter apathy towards prisoners may partly explain the lack of investment in adequate facilities.

Further reading

National Institute of Statistics and Geography of Mexico and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Report of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography of Mexico and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on a road map to improve the quality and availability of crime statistics at the national and international levels”. E/CN.3/2013/11. Available from http:// unstats.un.org/unsd/statcom/doc13/2013-11-CrimeStats-E.pdf.

Open Society Foundations and United Nations Development Programme. The Socioeconomic Impact of Pretrial Detention: A Global Campaign for Pretrial Justice Report. New York: Open Society Foundations, 2011.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Crime and Victimization in Asia. Forthcoming.

________. Global Study on Homicide: Trends, Contexts, Data. Vienna, 2011.

________. World Crime Trends and Emerging Issues and Responses in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Theme study for the twenty-first session of the Commission on Crime Prevention. Vienna, 2012. Available from www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/Crimestatistics/V1250994.pdf.

Technical notes

Intentional homicide (per 100,000 population) Intentional homicide – Male and female victims (percentage)
Intentional homicide is unlawful death purposefully inflicted on a person by another person. It excludes attempted homicides, deaths related to conflicts, deaths caused when the perpetrator was reckless or negligent, as well as killings that are usually considered justifiable according to penal law, such as those by law enforcement agents in the line of duty or in self-defence. Aggregate calculations: Weighted averages using population (WPP2012) as weight (per 100,000 population), no aggregates calculated (percentage). Missing data are not imputed.

Adults held in prison (number, per 100,000 population)
Persons held in prisons, penal institutions or correctional institutions on a specified day, and should exclude non-criminal prisoners held for administrative purposes, for example, foreign citizens without a legal right to stay held prior to removal. Aggregate calculations: Weighted averages using population (WPP2012) as weight. Missing data are not imputed.

Adult prison capacity (number)
The intended number of places available at 31 December without overcrowding, excluding places/capacity used for the detention of persons on the basis of their immigration status. Aggregate calculations: Weighted averages using population (WPP2012) as weight. Missing data are not imputed.

Occupancy rate (percentage)
The number of people held in prison divided by the official prison capacity. Aggregate calculations: Weighted averages using population (WPP2012) as weight. Missing data are not imputed.

Untried or in pre-trial detention (number)
Persons held in prisons, penal institutions or correctional institutions without trial or before a trial. Aggregate calculations: Weighted averages using population (WPP2012) as weight. Missing data are not imputed.

Source

Source of crime statistics: UNODC. Member States regularly submit to UNODC statistics on crime and criminal justice (through the Crime Trend Survey). UNODC applies scientific methods to maximize the comparability of the data. Data obtained: 30 August 2013.

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1United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011 Global Study on Homicide: Trends, Contexts, Data (Vienna, 2011).
2 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011 Global Study on Homicide: Trends, Contexts, Data (Vienna, 2011).
3 International Centre for Prison Studies, King’s College London, World Prison Population List, 8th ed. (London, 2009).
 
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