The End of Homicide

How to Halve Global Murders in a Decade

Flowers and pictures of victims of street violence are placed on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro July 31, 2011. Three thousand flowers, representing the 30,000 victims of violence in Rio de Janeiro from 2007 to present, were placed on the beach in an event staged to raise public awareness and to call for the attention of the authorities, according to the organizers. Ricardo Moraes / Reuters

The world has never been safer than it is right now. Most forms of violence have dropped precipitously over the past few centuries. Although conflict deaths recently spiked (the war in Syria accounts for one third of all war-related killings today), fewer people are dying from warfare than at virtually any time in human history. Terrorist violence also increased over the past two years—especially in six countries the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia—but it still pales in comparison to rates in the 1960s and 1970s. Most impressive of all, homicidal violence is in steady retreat almost everywhere, especially the West.

The lethal violence that persists is unevenly concentrated. Almost half of the roughly 430,000 annual murders around the world are generated by just 25 countries. A handful of states in Latin America—Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela—account for one quarter of all homicides on the planet. As many

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