Global crime patterns: An analysis of survey data from 166 countries around the world, 2006-2019

Jan van Dijk*, Paul Nieuwbeerta, Jacqueline Joudo Larsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Objectives This article explores the merits of commercially-based survey data on crime through cross-validation with established crime metrics. Methods Using unpublished data from 166 countries covering the period between 2006 and 2019, the article describes the geographical distribution across global regions and trends over time of three types of common crime, homicide, and organised crime. The article then explores possible determinants of the geographical distributions through regressing prevalence rates against indices of poverty, inequality, proportion of youth, presence of criminal opportunities (wealth and urbanisation), and governance/rule of law. Results The results show that African and Latin American countries suffer from the highest levels of various types of crime across the board, followed by countries in Asia. European, North American and Australian countries experience intermediate or relatively low levels of most types of crime. Levels of common crime have dropped or stabilized globally except in Africa where they went up. Homicides have fallen almost universally. Trends in organised crime are diverging. Conclusions Dimensions of governance emerged as powerful determinants of levels of all types of crime. Important determinants of common crime besides governance were poverty, inequality, and proportion of youth. To some extent changes in these same characteristics of countries were found to be correlated with changes in levels of crime over the past fifteen years. The article concludes with a discussion of the study's limitations and suggestions for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of quantitative criminology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Mar 2021


  • International
  • World-wide
  • Geographical distribution
  • Time series
  • Determinants
  • Common crime
  • Organised crime


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