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Crime Hotspots of 2023: The Seven Countries Consistently Ranked Highest in Global Crime Rates

The allure of exploring new shores, immersing oneself in unfamiliar cultures, and seeking opportunities beyond one’s native borders has always been a compelling narrative for many. But intertwined with the excitement of international adventures is the pragmatic concern of safety. In this article, we dive into the landscapes of seven countries—Venezuela, South Africa, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, El Salvador, Guyana, and Jamaica—known for their high crime rates.

Our objective? To equip you and other potential overseas adventurers with a balanced understanding, ensuring that decisions are made with both eyes open. While numbers and statistics play their part, there’s a richer, more nuanced story awaiting those willing to dig a little deeper. Let’s embark on this journey together.

1. Venezuela

Venezuela, a South American nation rich in natural resources, has consistently been at the forefront of global crime rate rankings, including in 2023. Data from multiple sources, including the World Population Review and Numbeo, place Venezuela among the top countries grappling with elevated crime rates.

Reasons for High Crime Rate:

  1. Economic Crisis: The nation has been facing hyperinflation, leading to shortages of essential goods like food and medicine.
  2. Political Instability: Ongoing political tensions, protests, and clashes have contributed to the deteriorating security situation.
  3. Gangs and Cartels: The rise of organized crime groups and drug cartels has further exacerbated the crime scenario.
  4. Humanitarian Crisis: A significant portion of the population lacks access to basic necessities, leading to desperation.
  5. Political Repression: The government’s actions against political opponents, including jailing and disqualifications, have intensified internal conflicts.
  6. Extrajudicial Killings: Reports of security forces being involved in extrajudicial killings, especially in low-income communities, are concerning.
  7. Armed Groups: The presence of armed groups, including those from neighboring Colombia, has led to various abuses.
  8. Judicial Challenges: A lack of judicial independence and systemic corruption hinders effective crime prevention and justice.
  9. Indigenous Rights Violations: Indigenous communities face threats from illegal mining operations and associated crimes.

2. South Africa

South Africa, known for its rich cultural heritage and diverse landscapes, has been grappling with significant crime challenges in 2023. Recent data indicates a mixed picture, with some crime statistics showing a decline, while others, especially violent crimes, have seen an increase.

Reasons for High Crime Rate:

  1. Underlying Social Tensions: Historical racial tensions and post-apartheid inequalities continue to play a role in the current crime scenario.
  2. Wealth Inequality: A significant disparity between the rich and the poor has led to increased theft, robberies, and violent confrontations.
  3. Organized Crime: The presence of organized crime syndicates contributes to various forms of criminal activities.
  4. Government’s Response: There has been scrutiny over the government’s response to the crime situation, with some believing it to be inadequate.
  5. High Rates of Gender-Based Violence: South Africa has been noted for its exceptionally high rates of gender-based violence.
  6. Ransom Kidnappings: A rising trend in 2023, with kidnappings for ransom becoming more prevalent.
  7. Vigilantism and Robberies: Many victims were killed during acts of vigilantism or during robberies, indicating a lack of trust in the formal justice system.
  8. Sexual Offences: While there has been a slight decrease in sexual offences, the numbers remain alarmingly high.
  9. Mass Shootings: In the 2022/2023 fiscal year, mass shootings were a significant factor contributing to multiple murder cases.

3. Honduras

Honduras, located in Central America, has experienced a significant reduction in its homicide rate in recent years. According to data from 2022, the country reported a rate of 36 murders per 100,000 people, a decrease from the previous year. Despite this progress, Honduras remains one of the most violent countries in Latin America and the world. The nation’s history is marked by challenges related to street gangs, drug traffickers, and other organized crime entities.

Reasons for High Crime Rate:

  1. Street Gangs and Drug Traffickers: Honduras has historically been caught in a spiral of violence linked to street gangs and drug traffickers.
  2. Economic Challenges: The impoverished conditions in many parts of the country contribute to crime, with individuals resorting to illegal activities out of desperation.
  3. Extortion: Gang violence, often linked to extortion, has been a persistent issue, especially in urban areas. Extortionists have diversified their methods, using digital payments, clandestine lottery tickets, and drug sales.
  4. Weak Law Enforcement: The police’s investigative techniques have not kept pace with criminal innovations, leading to challenges in addressing complex crimes.
  5. Corruption: Widespread corruption leads to impunity, empowering criminal organizations and undermining trust in institutions.
  6. Political Instability: Events like the 2009 coup and disputed elections have left a legacy of polarization and mistrust, affecting the overall security situation.
  7. State of Exception: The government’s decision to declare a national security emergency, suspending certain constitutional guarantees in communities affected by crime, has been met with mixed reactions.
  8. Migration and Displacement: The movement of people due to violence and lack of opportunities can exacerbate crime in certain areas.
  9. Regional Drug Trafficking Routes: Honduras’s geographical location makes it a transit point for drug trafficking routes, contributing to the crime scenario.

4. Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago, a twin-island nation known for its vibrant culture and carnival, has been facing a surge in violent crimes. As of May 2023, the death toll due to violent incidents stood at 280, surpassing the same period in 2022. This alarming trend has positioned Trinidad and Tobago as having the sixth-highest crime rate globally. The nation’s challenges extend beyond mere statistics, with a deeper dive revealing systemic issues contributing to the escalating crime scenario.

Reasons for High Crime Rate:

  1. Violence Against Women: The nation has witnessed an unprecedented rise in the killings of women and girls. The murder toll has been on track to overtake the previous year’s record, with more women being killed than at any other point in history.
  2. Economic Decline: Mismanagement of oil wealth, coupled with corruption, has led to economic challenges, indirectly contributing to the crime rate.
  3. Drug Trade and Organized Crime: The nation’s strategic location makes it a hub for drug trafficking, leading to an increase in organized crime.
  4. Cultural Shifts: Some believe that the commercialization of cultural events, like the carnival, has contributed to a rise in hypersexuality and associated crimes.
  5. Inadequate State Response: The state’s response to domestic violence and child abuse is often seen as insufficient, leading to a lack of trust in the system.
  6. Illegal Taxi Services: The proliferation of illegal “PH” taxi drivers poses a risk to the safety of women and girls, especially given the limited and expensive public transport options.
  7. Normalization of Violence: The prime minister’s statement in 2022, describing the nation as a “violent society,” underscores the normalization of violence in the country.
  8. Inefficient Police System: The police force has been criticized for its inability to effectively tackle the rising crime rates. Reports of rape victims being turned away and a general mistrust in the police further exacerbate the situation.
  9. Regional Crime Trends: The Caribbean region, as a whole, has been grappling with violent deaths at almost three times the global average.

5. El Salvador

El Salvador, once dubbed the “murder capital of the world,” has witnessed a significant transformation in its crime landscape by 2023. Under the leadership of President Nayib Bukele, the country has implemented an “iron fist” approach, targeting gangs and criminal organizations. This strategy, while controversial, has led to a dramatic decrease in the homicide rate, which plummeted from a staggering 107 per 100,000 people in 2015 to just 7.8 per 100,000 in recent data.

Reasons for High Crime Rate:

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  1. Gang Violence: Historically, gangs like Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 have been deeply entrenched in El Salvador, driving up crime rates.
  2. Economic Challenges: Poverty and limited economic opportunities have often pushed individuals towards criminal activities.
  3. Political Measures: President Bukele’s “state of exception” imposed in March, which suspended basic liberties, has been both lauded for reducing crime and criticized for human rights infringements.
  4. Negotiations with Gangs: Critics argue that the government had behind-the-scenes negotiations with major criminal organizations, and the spike in violence in early 2022 was a result of perceived breaches in these agreements.
  5. Underlying Causes: Hardline measures often do not address root causes like poverty, discrimination, and societal structures that enable gang recruitment.
  6. Prison Conditions: Many criminal organizations in Latin America, including El Salvador, have roots in prison systems, and the conditions in these prisons often facilitate gang activities.
  7. Political Power Dynamics: Bukele’s measures, while popular, have also been seen as a means to consolidate power, with moves like marching soldiers into parliament and firing key judicial figures.
  8. Public Support: Despite controversies, Bukele’s crackdown enjoys high approval ratings, indicating public desperation for safety and security.
  9. Regional Influence: The success of El Salvador’s approach has influenced other countries in the region, with nations like Honduras considering similar crackdowns.

6. Guyana

Guyana, located on the northeastern coast of South America, has been grappling with crime challenges that have positioned it among the countries with high crime rates. As of 2023, Guyana has a crime rate index of 68.74, with a murder rate approximately four times higher than that of the United States. The nation’s crime landscape is a complex interplay of socio-economic factors, cultural norms, and systemic challenges.

Reasons for High Crime Rate:

  1. Firearm Usage: Despite rigorous licensing requirements for firearm ownership, criminals frequently use weapons in their activities.
  2. Domestic Violence: Enforcement of domestic violence laws in Guyana is weak, leading to regular occurrences of such incidents.
  3. Armed Robberies: Especially prevalent in the capital, Georgetown, these incidents pose significant threats to both locals and tourists.
  4. Economic Challenges: Limited economic opportunities and poverty in certain regions can drive individuals towards criminal activities.
  5. Cultural Norms: A high tolerance for using violence to solve problems both in homes and communities has been observed.
  6. Tourist Targeting: Tourists are often victims of hotel break-ins, robberies, and assaults.
  7. Inefficient Law Enforcement: The capacity of the police force to effectively tackle crime, especially in remote areas, is sometimes questioned.
  8. Drug Trafficking: Guyana’s location makes it susceptible to being used as a transit point for drug trafficking, further complicating the crime scenario.

7. Jamaica

Jamaica, renowned for its vibrant culture, reggae music, and stunning beaches, has been confronting significant crime challenges in 2023. Particularly in urban areas like Kingston and Montego Bay, gang-related activities, drug trafficking, and political corruption are often cited as primary contributors to the nation’s high crime rate.

Reasons for High Crime Rate:

  1. Gang-Related Activity: Jamaica’s urban areas, especially Kingston and Montego Bay, are hotspots for gang-related crimes.
  2. Drug Trafficking: The island’s strategic location makes it a transit point for drug trafficking, leading to associated crimes.
  3. Political Corruption: Corruption within the political system has historically played a role in the perpetuation of crime.
  4. Economic Challenges: Limited economic opportunities in certain regions can lead to increased criminal activities.
  5. Domestic Violence: The country has seen a rise in domestic violence cases, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  6. Tourist Targeting: While tourists are generally not the primary targets of violent crime, they are susceptible to opportunistic crimes such as theft and robbery in tourist areas.
  7. Inefficient Law Enforcement: Challenges in the police force’s capacity to address crime effectively, especially in remote areas.
  8. Homicide Rate: The homicide rate in Jamaica remains among the highest globally, with 47.4 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2021.
  9. Sexual Assault: There were 719 reported incidents of rape in Jamaica in 2021, marking a 3% increase from the previous year.


For anyone considering a move overseas or already living as an expat, understanding the security landscapes of potential host countries is paramount. The high crime rates in Venezuela, South Africa, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, El Salvador, Guyana, and Jamaica are certainly concerning. But it’s essential to remember that crime statistics are just a part of the story.

Each of these countries has its own unique culture, traditions, and beauty. While being informed about potential risks, it’s equally important to embrace the vibrant experiences and opportunities that these nations offer. Engage with local communities, connect with fellow expats, and take advantage of local resources to get a comprehensive view of life on the ground.

Safety should always be a priority. Equip yourself with the most up-to-date information, stay connected with local and expat networks, and always have contingency plans in place. And while caution is crucial, so is an open heart and mind. Remember, the world is vast, diverse, and full of both challenges and wonders. Embrace the adventure with both care and curiosity.

Charlotte TweedDan is passionate about creating stories that help people discover and navigate unique perspectives and better understand the world around them. Aside from writing, Dan is an avid amateur marathon runner.
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