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Latvia had EU's highest homicide rate in 2019

Latest data from European Union statistical agency Eurostat shows Latvia leading the EU for the number of homicides per head of population.

In 2019, there were 3,875 police-recorded intentional homicides in the EU, the lowest number in the period 2008-2019 and a reduction of 32 % since 2008.

But figures for intentional homicide in relation to the population size (police-recorded offences per 100,000 inhabitants) published September 17 show that in 2019, the highest figures were observed in Latvia (4.7) and Lithuania (3.0), followed by nine countries with between 1 and 2 intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants (Estonia, Finland, Cyprus, Slovakia, Romania, France, Belgium, Bulgaria and Sweden).

In 15 countries the rate was between 0.5 and 1 per 100 000 inhabitants and in Slovenia it was below 0.5. In 17 out of 27 countries, the number of intentional homicide per 100 000 inhabitants decreased between 2018 and 2019.

One slight positive was that Latvia also recorded the largest decrease in its homicide rate, followed by Malta and Lithuania, while the highest increases were in Czechia and Croatia.

EU homicides, 2008-2019

In 2019 36 % of intentional homicide victims in the EU were females. However, there were more females than males among the victims in Cyprus, Latvia, Malta, Austria and in Norway and Switzerland for the EFTA countries.

In Hungary, Germany, Croatia, Denmark and Czechia the percentage of females was higher than 40 %. In 8 countries the percentage was between 30 % and 40 %. The percentage was lower than 30 % in Romania, Greece, Slovakia, Ireland, Lithuania, Estonia and Sweden. In 12 of the 23 countries that provided data for both years, the percentage of female victims decreased from the previous year. Latvia's figure is notably higher than the figures for Estonia and Lithuania.

EU homicides of females

Intentional homicide means killing a human being willfully and illegally with intent to cause death or serious injury, but not necessarily that it was planned beforehand. It is a slightly wider concept than murder, for which also planning and other criteria are considered, but obviously all murders are intentional homicides even if all intentional homicides are not necessarily murders.

Intentional homicide statistics include murder, deadly assault, assassination, terrorism, femicide, infanticide, voluntary manslaughter, extrajudicial killings, and illegal killing by police or military. It excludes attempted homicide, justifiable self-defence, assisted suicide, euthanasia, and abortion.

The full batch of newly-released Eurostat crime statistics is available to read online and shows that for other crimes such as robberies and assaults Latvia is more in line with the EU average. 

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