Personal security is a core element for the well-being of individuals, and largely reflects the risks of people being physically assaulted or falling victim to other types of crime. Crime may lead to loss of life and property, as well as physical pain, post-traumatic stress and anxiety. One of the biggest impacts of crime on people’s well-being appears to be through the feeling of vulnerability that it causes.
According to recent data, 4.0% of people in OECD countries say they have been assaulted or mugged over the past 12 months. There are major differences, however, between countries. The rates for Canada, Japan, Poland, the United States and the United Kingdom are below 2% but they reach more than 8% in Chili and 13% in Mexico. Although the assault rate in the Russian Federation is below the OECD average with approximately 3%, 8% of people in Brazil say they have been assaulted or mugged over the past 12 months. Assault rates are slightly higher for men across OECD countries, with 4.4% of men reporting assault or mugging, compared with 3.6% for women.
Homicide rates (the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants) only represent the most extreme form of contact crime and thus do not provide information about more typical safety conditions. They are however a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes, murders are usually always reported to the police. According to the latest OECD data, the average homicide rate in the OECD is 2.2 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Homicide rates for men are usually higher than those affecting women, with 3.5 per 100,000 for men and 1.0 per 100,000 for women.
Fear of crime is another important factor as it can constrain behaviour, restrict freedom and threaten the foundation of communities. Despite a general reduction in assault rates in the past five years, in many OECD countries feelings of security have declined. Around 67% of people across OECD countries say they feel safe on the street after dark. While men are at a greater risk of being victims of assaults and violent crimes, women report lower feelings of security. This has been explained by a greater fear of sexual attacks, the feeling they must also protect their children and their concern that they may be seen as partially responsible.
Social status also has an impact on victimisation rates and perception of security. People with higher income and higher education usually report higher feelings of security and face lower risks of crime. This can be explained by the fact they can afford better security and are less exposed to criminal activities such as youth gangs or drug smuggling.
Note: data for the indicator “Assault Rate” is provided by the Gallup World Poll.