Embarrassing errors inflate Czech murder ranking in Europe

Photo: CTK

Recently released figures by the European statistics body, Eurostat, placed the Czech Republic in Europe’s top ten locations for murders. According to the statisticians, the country ranked seventh in the EU, with more than two murders per 100,000 inhabitants. But it turns out the figures for the Czech Republic also included attempted homicides. The real numbers in fact suggest that the country has one of the lowest murder rates in the EU.

Relying on figures from the Czech government, the EU’s statistics office recently reported there were 202 murders committed in the Czech Republic in 2008. That put the country seventh worst place for murders among the EU 27 with a ratio of just over two murders per 100,000 people.

The figure raised some eyebrows as the Czech Republic is known for many things but not exactly for violent crime. As it turns out, however, the situation is not as bad as it seems. The figures fed to Eurostat by the Czech police also include planned and attempted homicides. Pavla Kopecká is a spokeswoman for the criminal investigation unit of Czech police.

“All the data that we report as homicides include not only completed homicides but also planned and attempted murders. Judging by this year’s figures, we can say that in each year’s total figure for murders there are some 25 percent which are planned and attempted murders. We put all these murders together because the line of investigation is the same, regardless of whether the deed was done.”

Homicide statistics have been compiled since 1974 and the number of murders reached a peak in 1998. There were 313 murders reported in that year, including 135 attempts. In recent years, the murder rate has been declining. Forensic psychologist Alena Marešová works at the Czech Institute of Criminology and Social Prevention.

“I just checked the figures for 2008 and 2009, and more than 40 percent of the data featured in the statistics are planned and attempted murders. So the numbers are really misleading because when you take these away, you get one of the lowest murder rates in Europe. In 2009, there were fewer than 100 murders, which means there was less than one murder per 100,000 inhabitants. That places the Czech Republic behind Cyprus, Austria and other EU countries.”

The confusion apparently stems from an embarrassing misunderstanding between Prague and Luxembourg-based Eurostat. A spokeswoman for the statistics office said that until 1993, their figures for the Czech Republic included homicides for all three stages but after that they just concentrated on completed murders. Czech officials however continued providing the same figures regardless.