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Is there evidence for an increase in teenage homicides?

Recent figures from Statistics Netherlands show that the total number of homicides has decreased in 2020. But the number of homicides among young people increased. Many have interpreted this to mean that homicide among teenagers in increasing. Marieke Liem, Professor of Social Resilience and Security, provides context to these figures on NPO Radio 1.

Teenage victims of homicide

The conversation covers how prof. Liem interprets the increasing numbers of homicide fatalities among teenagers. First, prof. Liem notes that the word "Teenager" might be a bit out of place in this context. Prof Liem: 'If we look at the figures we keep at Leiden University, where we have a large dataset of all people who are killed and who are persecuted for this, we see that they are not so much teenagers, but rather victims under 20.” Actually, these cases often involve children rather than teenagers, so there is not really a huge increase in teenagers who lose their lives "on the street".

Safety paradox

The newspaper De Telegraaf wrote about the Statistics Netherlands figures: 'Increase in the number of teenage homicides'. With such a headline you might think of an increasing number of young people walking around with knives. According to prof. Liem, this cannot be derived from the figures. You need to look more closely at what exactly these figures refer to. Liem: 'We live in a time that is characterized by a 'safety paradox'. We have a very low homicide rate, also in Western European context. You could argue that when something happens very infrequently, when it does happen, it gets a lot of attention.” Prof. Liem argues that this makes it seem as if a certain event occurs more often than it actually does.

The interview (in Dutch) is available here.

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