Scrolling through Twitter this afternoon, I saw a headline reading, “Amsterdam is one of Europe’s murder capitals, says Eurostat”. Of course I clicked through. It turns out that between 2007 and 2009, Amsterdam ranked fourth on the European murder rate table, with 3.65 murders per 100,000 people during that time period. First through third were Vilnius in Lithuania (7.9), Tallin in Estonia (6) and Luxemburg (4.24). For what it’s worth, Brussels is in fifth place at 3.09. Another way of looking at it all is that there were 19 murders in Amsterdam in 2008 and 31 in 2009, with five of those being related to Albanian gang violence.
One murder is too many, but seeing numbers like that helps to put things in perspective, one way or another. The year I graduated from university in New Orleans, Louisiana, the murder rate in the city reached record levels. In 1994, 421 people were killed (85.8 per 100,000 people). That averaged out to more than a person a day, every day, for a whole year. To date, no other major city in the US has had that high a level. In fact, New Orleans has held the unfortunate title of murder capital of the nation over a number of years since the 1990s.
I still love New Orleans and never let the crime and corruption get me down, even when I lived there. In fact, I generally felt quite safe living there. As always, you take appropriate precautions, be sensible, and try to avoid known trouble areas. I was a fortunate university student, though. The problem is that a lot of people living there find it much harder to avoid the dangerous parts of life in the city. My time there was a lifetime ago when you factor in Katrina. One can only hope that there are more and better opportunities for everyone to avoid the kind of lifestyle that leads to those kind of murder numbers.
As I said, even one murder is too many, but I’d much rather see Amsterdam’s numbers than New Orleans. I’m not sure if I’m really trying to say anything with this post. It’s simply that reading the article today took me back to my time in New Orleans when the growing murder rate was discussed daily. If you were in New Orleans in 1994, I’m pretty sure you understand why my mind goes back to that time. On the plus side, I do know that a fellow Tulane alum is now working nationally to reduce gun crime.
ETA: In a vaguely relevant way, I was also amused when I saw the headline today that said, “One of Britain’s most wanted is arrested in Amsterdam”. Why is this amusing? Well, because police in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, and Den Haag were all on strike today for a few hours. I was impressed that they managed to arrest Britain’s most wanted even while on strike. However, it turns out the guy was caught yesterday. So I guess they tidied up their desk, so to speak, before heading out on strike. How considerate!