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Andrea Sandoval

What are the 10 most violent cities in the world?

- One of the ways we can measure violence is through censuses and reports.

What are the 10 most violent cities in the world?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines violence as “the deliberate use of physical force or power, whether threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or a group or community, which causes or has high probability of causing injury, death, psychological damage, developmental disorders or deprivation” (World Health Organization, 2002, p.3).

In the World Report on Violence and Health, carried out by the WHO, it is stated that there is no factor that allows determining why a person behaves violently or not. For this reason, an ecological model is used, which takes into account different factors that influence violence, such as: biological, social, cultural, economic and political (World Health Organization, 2002).

One of the ways in which levels of violence within States can be measured is homicide, considered a violent crime (UNODC. 2019a). The motivations that lead people to commit homicide are multiple and related to various factors: socioeconomic and environmental conditions, governance and rule of law, political stability, demographics, and cultural stereotypes (particularly in relation to gender roles). Additionally, homicidal violence is also influenced by access to firearms or sharp objects, and by the use and trafficking of psychoactive substances (UNODC, 2019a, p.7).

In the World Study on Homicide, carried out by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2019, Book 3, the existence of three main typologies is considered: interpersonal homicide, related homicide with crime and sociopolitical homicide. Interpersonal homicide encompasses two types: homicide perpetrated within the family (by intimate partners or other family members) and other interpersonal homicide perpetrated outside the family. Crime-related homicide focuses primarily on property-related crimes and homicides carried out by organized crime groups and street gangs. Sociopolitical homicide includes the killing of human rights defenders, social leaders and certain professionals at risk, such as journalists and humanitarian aid workers (UNODC, 2019b).

However, it should be noted that it is not always possible to classify all homicides within these typologies. This is because there are structural and cultural factors such as poverty, inequality and the youth of the population, which are strongly related to homicide rates (UNODC, 2019b). Furthermore, it is important to mention that crime causes more deaths than armed conflicts. In 2017 alone, according to UNODC, "there were almost half a million victims of homicide, a figure that far exceeds the 89,000 victims caused by active armed conflicts and the 19,000 who died in terrorist attacks" (United Nations, s.f., para. 5).

One of the ways in which we can measure violence is through censuses and reports, as is the case of the 2020 Ranking of the 50 most violent cities in the world, carried out by the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice A.C., where Cities with more than 300,000 inhabitants with the highest homicide rates in the world are measured. The ranking methodology is based on the figures published by the States or, if they are not published or there are no official figures, they make estimates.

Below is the list of the 10 most violent cities in the world:

Position City Country Homicide Inhabitants Rate
1 Celaya Mexico 699 693,052 109.38
2 Tijuana Mexico 2,155 2,049,413 105.15
3 Juarez Mexico 1,567 1,512,450 103.61
4 City Obregon Mexico 309 305,539 101.13
5 Irapuato Mexico 823 866,370 94.99
6 Cove Mexico 402 443,807 90.58
7 ST. Louis United States 264 300,576 87.83
8 Uruapan Mexico 259 356,786 72.59
9 Santana Fair Brazil 418 619,609 67.46
10 Cape Town South Africa 2,947 4,604,986 64.00

Source: Adaptation of the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice A.C. (Security, Justice and Peace, 2020)

From the table it can be seen that 7 of the 10 cities are located in Mexico, where Celaya, Guanajuato is the most violent Mexican city in the world for the fourth consecutive year (Security, Justice and Peace, 2021).

Likewise, it is important to highlight that, of the 13 annual editions of this ranking, 7 times the most violent city in the world has been located in Mexico (2008, 2009, 2010, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020) (Security, Justice and Peace , 2021).

This list indicates the serious situation of the countries in terms of security, which results in the constant violation of human rights. Above all, the situation in Mexico is even more dismaying, where the high homicide rates indicate a serious institutional problem for the protection of democracy and peace. For this reason, it is important to disseminate this type of investigation that aims to pressure rulers in their obligations to protect citizens, and guarantee their right to public safety (Security, Justice and Peace, 2021).


    Naciones Unidas. (s.f.). Una nueva era de conflictos y violencia. Naciones Unidad. Consultado el 21 de febrero de 2022 desde

    Organización mundial de la Salud (2002). Informe mundial sobre la violencia y la salud. Sinopsis. OMS. Consultado el 21 de febrero de 2022 desde

    Seguridad, Justicia y Paz. (20 de abril de 2021). Boletín Ranking de las 50 ciudades más violentas del mundo 2020. Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal A.C. Consultado el 21 de febrero de 2022 desde

    UNODC. (2019a). Estudio Mundial sobre el Homicidio 2019. Resumen Ejecutivo. Oficina de las Naciones Unidas contra la Droga y el Delito (publicación de las Naciones Unidas), desde

    UNODC. (2019b). Estudio Mundial sobre el Homicidio 2019. Comprendiendo el homicidio. Oficina de las Naciones Unidas contra la Droga y el Delito (publicación de las Naciones Unidas), desde

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Sandoval, Andrea. “¿Cuáles son las 10 ciudades más violentas del mundo?.” CEMERI, 6 sept. 2022,