Despite the recent media attention given to the murder trial of Amanda Knox, as well as the country’s strong identification with organized crime groups like the Mafia and the Camorra, the murder rate in Italy is actually quite low.
A joint study released in 2008 by the Eures think tank and the ANSA news agency showed that Italy, Denmark, Germany and Spain had the second-lowest homicide rate in Europe: 1.0 homicide per 100,000 inhabitants. The lowest rate in Europe exists in Norway, which had 0.7 deaths per 100,000 people.
By comparison, the murder rate in the U.S. that year was 5.6 killings per 100,000 people.
Moreover, as far as murder goes, Italy is also safer than Britain, France, Sweden, Finland, Australia and Canada.
According to Eures/ANSA, in 2006, 181 women in Italy were murdered – a two-decade high. Two-thirds of these victims were killed by relatives or boyfriends. All told, 516 people were murdered in Italy that year – 32 percent by friends and/or lovers and 23 percent by organized criminals.
Interestingly, the number of foreign-born victims surged by 20 percent that year, while the number of foreign-born killers climbed by 31 percent.
(In the case of the murder of Meredith Kercher, herself a British national, two of three accused killers were foreign-born, including Knox, who is American).
According to EuroStat, overall violent crime has been in decline in the European Union nations for the past decade or so (mirroring trends in the United States), perhaps due to aging demographics.
The highest murder rates in Europe are in the former Soviet Republics of Lithuania and Estonia (six to eight times the rate found in Italy).
Countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Jamaica have murder rates sixty to seventy times the frequency of such crimes in Italy.
In any case, perhaps the massive media focus of the Amanda Knox murder trial and the outrage among Italians following her acquittal reflects the reality that homicides are exceedingly rare in the land of the Mafia.