Europe's Crime Rate and Capital Punishment Part II

death chamberThe more I think about the first part of my response, the more I’m convinced there’s basically no need for a second part. Although the initial question was whether the abolishment of capital punishment lead to higher crime rates in Europe, I refuted Curzon’s claim that there’s a correlation between the death penalty and homicides: Deterrence is not a factor. So far, so good – but if the death penalty doesn’t act as a deterrent, in what other way does it affect the crime rate? Since this was the foundation of Curzon’s theory, the rest automatically collapses back upon itself. There’s no proof capital punishment has any effect on crime rates at all, homicide rates or others.

Anyway, let’s take another look at the numbers at hand. A lower crime number in the U.S. is compared to higher crime rates in France, England and Wales between 1995 and 2001. The origin of those numbers is not completely clear. Although most of the links Curzon presented can be found in the top five of perspicuous (?) Google searches (like “crime rate europe homicide”), the mere description another source for his comparison between the U.S. and European countries doesn’t help much here. Looking further for the source of the mentioned crime numbers (“4161 6941 9927”) reveals that several weblogs beside Dailypundit copied it one from the other, always citing an Interpol source that’s not available (or not available any more). In dubio pro reo, let’s suppose the numbers are from Interpol and are correct (there are other official sources, that still leaves us with the question what’s the connection to the topic at hand? The numbers for the United States are lower than for European countries that abolished the death penalty, but it’s not about homicides, but a general crime rate which can’t be proven to be influenced only by the (existence or abolition of the) death penalty. I don’t want to invoke the obligatory apples and oranges argument, but let’s rather stick to the homicide rate.

In England, the the House of Commons concluded that capital punishment must now be seen to be inhuman and degrading and abolished capital punishment in 1973. Note that the last time an execution took place in Britain was 1964 – details here. Here’s the UK Crime Reduction website Curzon took a look at but unfortunately didn’t find the homicide rate chart. Although there is a upwards trend, it is decreasing since 2002/2003. The homicide rate in England and Wales in 2000 was at 1.5 per 100,000 (USA: 5.9): This is not about trends, just a synchronous comparison. Homicide rate London – Washington B.C. between 1998 and 2000: 528 and 733 (which translates to a homicide rate of 2.38 per 100,000 in London and 45,79 in Washington!). Between 1996 and 2000, the homicide rate fell about 1% in all Europe (+25% in England, -10% in France). Russia, as another example saw a drop of 2% in the same time period. They still have capital punishment, although they’re not using it.

France abolished capital punishment in 1981, the last execution taking place in 1977, there’s lots of information about homicides and the overall crime rate for the time between 1997 and (May!) 2005, for an overview of trends, take a look at this. Let’s see how our Canadian neighbors are doing. They abolished capital punishment in 1976, the homicide rate dropped and decreased in the following two decades.

Canadian research on the deterrent effect of punishment has reached the same conclusion as the overwhelming majority of US studies: the death penalty has no special value as a deterrent when compared to other punishments. In fact, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has stated: “It is futile to base an argument for reinstatement on grounds of deterrence”.

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications published a long term statistic about the crime rate in Japan here and a bilingual document from 2005 titled ?????????????????????? (penal code crime cases known to the police, cases cleared up and arrestees by type of crime (1980 to 2002) ) – the numbers for homicide are decreasing, by the way. Charles Lane gives more insight about the death penalty in Japan.

To be fair, the crime rate in Europe is increasing. A report by the University of West England for example shows that there has been a general increase in crime over the last 25 years (1995). It also mentiones reasons why crime has increased – but don’t be surprised if you don’t find abolition of capital punishment in the list.

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