Murder Most Foul…and Abundant?

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Last Updated on February 18, 2018 by Stefanie Hutson

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If you watch a lot of British mysteries, it's only natural to start wondering if people in the UK are constantly killing each other. Every time I go over, my grandmother is full of helpful warnings like, “Don't go walking alone on the moors at night,” or, “Don't go to Midsomer – you'll get murdered!” This is usually where I point out that Midsomer Murders is actually filmed in various villages and towns around a couple counties, but that doesn't help much. It's not just her, either. Over and over, I hear people (seriously) talking about the high British murder rate. But is it REALLY as high as the murder mysteries would suggest?

Murder Rates in the United Kingdom vs. United States

Since most of us here are from the United States, we'll use it for comparison.

Murders with firearms

With one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world, the UK is a clear winner here. Although UK citizens are allowed to own guns (after jumping through a few hoops to ensure they aren't passed out willy nilly), they just don't use them all that often. A few key stats:

Murders overall

Again, the UK is a clear winner. The United States as a whole sees around 4.88 murders per 100,000 inhabitants with a total of 15,696 murders in 2015. The United Kingdom has just under 1 murder per 100,000 inhabitants (.92) with a total of 592 murders in 2014. The years are different because those were the data sources I found first, but in both cases, the numbers are “typical” years – not significantly above or below what you'd normally see in any other year.

The Takeaway?

No matter what you see on Midsomer Murders or Marple or Shetland or Vera, you're much, much more likely to get murdered in the United States. Aside from that, if you DO get murdered in the UK, it's much more likely to happen in a city (and not some gorgeous Cotswold village).

The Most Dangerous Parts of the United Kingdom

If you're trying to stay safe in the United Kingdom, it's not Midsomer you need to avoid (again, not a real place but a group of towns and villages in rural Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire) – it's London, West Yorkshire, Glasgow, Manchester, and the like (though the rankings do fluctuate from year to year).

Even in its murder hotspots, though, the UK is still a pretty safe place. In most years, London's homicide rate per 100,000 is around 2. For Glasgow, one of the most dangerous cities in Europe, it's around 2.7 per 100,000. Compare that to some US cities:

  • Anchorage, AK – 8.6
  • Anaheim, CA – 5.2
  • Chicago, IL – 23.8
  • Dallas, TX – 10.4
  • Detroit, MI – 43.4
  • Indianapolis, IN – 17.1
  • Louisville, KY – 11.9
  • San Francisco, CA – 6.1
  • St. Louis, MO – 59.8
  • St. Paul, MN – 5.3
  • Omaha, NE – 10.6

Think about that for a moment. A person is more than twice as likely to be murdered in St. Paul, Minnesota…than in London.

The Safest Places in the United Kingdom

Of course, if you want to be extra cautious, you'll book it out of London and head somewhere a little calmer. Inspector Morse fans may be surprised to know that Oxford ranks as 9th safest city in the UK, based on a poll that asked people how safe they feel. Aberystwyth, the setting for Hinterland, was ranked as safest. Other cities that scored well include Edinburgh (home to Rebus and The Escape Artist), Brighton (the setting for one great Lovejoy episode), and Norwich (setting for many episodes of Tales of the Unexpected and the movie 45 Years).

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