Five of the top 10 most violent cities in the world for 2011 are in Mexico

17 January, 2012 by Staff - Mexico News

Five of the top 10 most violent cities in the world for 2011 are in Mexico. As astonishing as that might be, it appears to reflect an unfortunate trend across the Americas, where 45 of the 50 most violent cities in the world are located, 40 of those being in Latin America.

Despite the horrendous violence taking place in some Mexican cities, the title of the world’s most dangerous city went to San Pedro Sula, Honduras with 156 homicides per 100,000 residents.

San Pedro Sula’s stunningly high murder rate is a reflection of what is known in policy circles as the “balloon effect” – police pressure in one area, in this case Mexico, will only cause the expansion of the drug trade in other areas.

Indeed, the year 2011 was notable as it marked a rapid expansion of Mexico’s drug cartels south into Central America, which has in recent years become the world’s most violent region.

Central America is characterized by weak governments unable to cope with the financial and organizational power of the drug cartels and is increasingly seen by cartel leaders as safer terrain in which to operate. Similarly, 2011 has witnessed an increasing shift of coca production from Colombia to Peru and Bolivia due to the pressure exerted on cartels by U.S. backed Plan Colombia.

Juarez, Mexico, which had held the title of “the world’s most dangerous city” for the three previous years, slipped to second place worldwide yet remained the most dangerous city in Mexico for 2011. Juarez remains a hotspot due the ongoing campaign by the Sinaloa cartel to dislodge the entrenched Juarez cartel in order to gain control of this coveted smuggling rout into the United States. Juarez is also known for its abundant U.S. style street gangs.

The most murderous cities in Mexico, measured by the number of homicides per 100,000 of the population for 2011 were (in order):

Ciudad Juárez
Acapulco
Torreón
Chihuahua
Durango
Culiacán
Mazatlán
Tepic
Veracruz
Nuevo Laredo

Both Juarez and Acapulco surpassed the dubious threshold of having more than 100 murders per 100,000 citizens.

Overall, Mexico has 12 cities in the top 50 most dangerous cities in the world. Brazil has 14, Colombia has 5, and the United States has 4. The county with the most problematic statistical homicide rate outside of the Americas is South Africa with 4 cities in the top 50.

Notably absent from the list are cities such as Tijuana, Mexico which has calmed down considerably following the demise of the Arellano Félix drug cartel. Rio de Janeiro, once perceived to be among the world’s most dangerous cities also did not make the list, nor did Washington, D.C., the U.S. capital.

Murder rates are typically expressed in terms of 100,000 residents in order to allow an undistorted statistical comparison of the prevalence of homicides across cities of different sizes. However these data do not, in reality, capture the element of “danger” for several reasons.

Violence in cities such as Acapulco, despite its astonishingly high homicide rate, rarely spills over to the civilian population and is mainly a result of war between rival drug gangs. In other areas of the world, a lower homicide rate might spell more “danger” in the classic sense as criminals focus on exploiting civilians.

The table below excludes cities with under 300,000 residents meaning that there may be many smaller cities with equally high statistical probabilities of homicide. Similarly, many cities known to be highly violent such as Mogadishu, Somalia do not collect or publish accurate statistics and were not included.

Ranking of the 50 Most Dangerous Cities in the World for 2011

Rank City Country Murders Population Rate
1 San Pedro Sula Honduras 1,143 719,447 158.87
2 Juárez Mexico 1,974 1,335,890 147.77
3 Maceio Brazil 1,564 1,156,278 135.26
4 Acapulco Mexico 1,029 804,412 127.92
5 Tegucigalpa Honduras 1,123 1,126,534 99.69
6 Caracas Venezuela 3,164 3,205,463 98.71
7 Torreón Mexico 990 1,128,152 87.75
8 Chihuahua Mexico 690 831,693 82.96
9 Durango Mexico 474 593,389 79.88
10 Belém Brazil 1,639 2,100,319 78.04
11 Cali Colombia 1,720 2,207,994 77.90
12 Guatemala City Guatemala 2,248 3,014,060 74.58
13 Culiacán Mexico 649 871,620 74.46
14 Medellín Colombia 1,624 2,309,446 70.32
15 Mazatlán Mexico 307 445,343 68.94
16 Tepic Mexico 299 439,362 68.05
17 Vitoria Brazil 1,143 1,685,384 67.82
18 Veracruz Mexico 418 697,414 59.94
19 Ciudad Guayana Venezuela 554 940,477 58.91
20 San Salvador El Salvador 1,343 2,290,790 58.63
21 New Orleans USA 199 343,829 57.88
22 Salvador Brazil 2,037 3,574,804 56.98
23 Cúcuta Colombia 335 597,385 56.08
24 Barquisimeto Venezuela 621 1,120,718 55.41
25 San Juan Puerto Rico 225 427,789 52.60
26 Manaus Brazil 1,079 2,106,866 51.21
27 São Luís Brazil 516 1,014,837 50.85
28 Nuevo Laredo Mexico 191 389,674 49.02
29 João Pessoa Brazil 583 1,198,675 48.64
30 Detroit USA 346 713,777 48.47
31 Cuiaba Brazil 403 834,060 48.32
32 Recife Brazil 1,793 3,717,640 48.23
33 Kingston Jamaica 550 1,169,808 47.02
34 Cape Town South Africa 1,614 3,497,097 46.15
35 Pereira Colombia 177 383,623 46.14
36 Macapa Brazil 225 499,116 45.08
37 Fortaleza Brazil 1,514 3,529,138 42.90
38 Monterrey Mexico 1,680 4,160,339 40.38
39 Curitiba Brazil 720 1,890,272 38.09
40 Goiânia Brazil 484 1,302,001 37.17
41 Port Elizabeth South Africa 381 1,050,930 36.25
42 Barranquilla Colombia 424 1,182,493 35.86
43 St. Louis USA 113 319,294 35.39
44 Mosul Iraq 636 1,800,000 35.33
45 Belo Horizonte Brazil 1,680 4,883,721 34.40
46 Panama City Panama 543 1,713,070 31.70
47 Cuernavaca Mexico 198 630,174 31.42
48 Baltimore USA 195 620,961 31.40
49 Durban South Africa 1,059 3,468,087 30.54
50 Johannesburg South Africa 1,186 3,888,180 30.50

Source: Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal A.C., 2012.

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