Universiteit Leiden

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Research project


A research into homicide.

Paul Nieuwbeerta
Leiden University

Characteristics of this researchproject

How many?
The number of persons who have been killed by violence has decreased the past few years. Last year, in 2009, a total of 178 homicides were committed. In the previous year there were 161 murders, compared to 143   in 2007 143; this has been the lowest number in many decades.

Homicide, just like most forms of crime, is an area governed by men; the majority of both victims and perpetrators are male. Women are particularly  involved with homicide in the context of personal relations and then predominantly as victims. When women do commit a homicide, it nearly  always concerns a homicide within the context of family or personal relations and seldom in a criminal context.

Homicides can be divided based on relations between offenders and victims and the context in which the homicide has taken place. In our research we distinguish nine categories:  four types of family related murder (killing of children and parents, killing of (estranged) intimate partners and other family members), two criminal related types (homicide in the context of robbery and other criminal related murders, including liquidations), homicides resulting from quarrels, sexual homicides and the category “other”, that includes homicides that could not be captured in the previous categories. Homicides that have not been solved by the police are not incorporated in this categorization. After all:  In order to categorize a homicide, the relation between perpetrator and victim needs to be known.
The largest part of the homicides within the context of family concerns the killing of (estranged) intimate partners. Cases in which rivals (in love)  were  killed are also included in this category. Together the victims of killings of (estranged) intimate partners and of rivals make up almost a fifth of all homicides in the Netherlands.  The killing of parents and children make up about 5% of the total. In the remaining family homicides, others than partners, elders and/or children have been killed, such as siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts and other family members.  Also cases of honour revenge and blood feud have been included here. Together the category ‘other family homicide’ adds up to 5 percent of all murders.
The second category concerns homicides that have taken place in the criminal environment, indicating thatthe perpetrator and/or victim was involved with criminal practices. Most of these concern drugs. This varies from drug addicts who kill each other as well as drug addicts who kill their dealers, to drug dealers who kill each other at a ripdeal. Liquidations in the criminal environment are also included here. Of all homicides, approximately 11 per cent falls into this category. Another subcategory of criminal homicides concern homicides in the context of a robbery . 7 Per cent of all homicides took place in the context of a robbery,, raid or burglary.
Homicides resulting fromquarrels include a short- or long-term conflict between friends, acquaintances or strangers resulting in a violent death. We have only included those homicides where offenders and victims are not next of kin en do not know each other from the criminal circuit. In the last ten years this amounted to 20 percent of all murders. Finally there is a separate category for homicides committed in a sexual context, meaning murder cases within the context of prostitution and/or homicides where victims have been assaulted sexually or raped. This was the case in about 4 per cent of all homicides. Finally, the category “other homicides”includes homicides in which data is either missing (i.e. the relationship  between offender(s) and victim(s) is unknown, as well as the circumstances), or do not fit in the aforementioned categories.
This category “other” encompasses approximately 10 percent of all homicides in the Netherlands. It is a very heterogeneous group.

In the researched period the majority of the victims were killed in the three largest cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Within these cities there are, however, considerable differences between neighbourhoods.

In summer more homicides take place than in other seasons. About one third of the murders is committed in the weekend.

In the period under study, over one third of the victims was killed with a firearm. Also about one third was killed with a pointed weapon. There are significant differences between de separate homicide categories: Firearms were used in the majority of the liquidations and other homicides in the criminal environment. 

Data researchproject in the Netherlands

This study makes use of an established database on lethal violence in the Netherlands, entitled the Dutch Homicide Monitor that includes  information onall homicides that have been committed in the Netherlands.
Until recently there was no proper database or there were no statistics with reliable information on cases, victims and perpetrators. Since 1992, the database contains information on all homicides that have been committed from 1992 onwards. The year 1992 was used as a cut-off point. Before 1992, no uniform registration system for homicides in the Netherlands was available; accordingly, the homicide incidence and characteristics of homicide cases were not known. This database includes all lethal offences that have taken place between 1992 and 2006, which have been categorized as either murder (art. 289 and 291 Dutch Code of Criminal Law) or manslaughter (art. 287, 288 and 290 Dutch Code of Criminal Law), together comprising the category homicide. Although Statistics Netherlands (Central Bureau of Statistics) also publishes data on homicide, the Dutch Homicide Monitor contains more detailed information on event, perpetrator and victim characteristics. The Dutch Homicide Monitor is comprised of six sources, which partially overlap each other:
-          All newspaper articles related to homicide generated by the Netherlands National News Agency (ANP). In the period 1992-2001 the ANP has published more than 13.000 newspaper articles related to homicide in the Netherlands. In these articles much information is available on the characteristics of the homicides, the perpetrators and victims.
-          The Elsevier Annual Report. From 1992 onwards, the weekly magazine Elsevier publishes an annual report on all homicides that have taken place. This report is based on both ANP articles as well as on police files.
-          Files from the National Bureau of Investigation (NRI). From 1992 onwards, information on homicides in the Netherlands has been collected by the NRI as part of the National Police Force (KLPD). The information available in these files concerns the date and location of the homicide, the homicide method as well as basic demographic characteristics of both victim and perpetrator.
-          Files from the Public Prosecution Service. This database includes the judicial procedures of a homicide.
-          Files from the Judicial Information Service and the Ministry of Justice.
-      Additional data stemming from regional police. Several police regions have supplied (additional) data from their own documentation. This information has been incorporated in the database.
-          Files from the Criminal Justice Knowledge Centre (WODC). In addition to files from the KLPD and the Public Prosecution Service, these files contain detailed information stemming from interviews with relevant investigators who were in charge of the homicide event.

The database contains information on more than 3000 homicides, approximately 3500 victims and approximately 4200 offenders. A relatively limited amount of detail, however, is available, such as the location and date of the homicide, the weapon used in the homicide, the gender of victim(s) and perpetrator(s), their ethnicity and the relationship between victim(s) and perpetrator(s). If the perpetrator was sentenced, details on the claim set out by the Public Prosector as well as the Judge’s verdict are known.

To create the Dutch Homicide Monitor all homicides collected from the different sources have been examined. Subsequently this list has been cleared and completed. For all dubious cases we have verified at the involved police forces, public procecutor’s offices and courts whether it was really a homicide case or another offence, an accident or suicide. In addition, missing or conflicting data are checked. On the basis of the additional information the definitive list is established. Due to this procedure, the database consists of all homicides that are known, one way or another, at the 25 regional forces of the police, the NRI, the Public Prosecution Service, the 19 courts, the Ministry of Justice, the CBS and the press.

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