Wednesday, January 5, 2011

US versus Dutch crime rates

Prison corridor with cells inside Alcatraz main building san francisco california
Home for almost 1% of the US population
Photo by Tim Pearce
Yesterday's "Hookers and Pot" post became the most popular post of the week in just a few hours. I suspect that's because it's the aspect of the Netherlands which most people are curious about and familiar with. However, I also suspect that it's part of the whole "how are things different?" aspect. It's worth noting, though, that Abigail posted some rather interesting commentary:
Note though that the overcapacity in prison is only very recent. It's only a few years ago criminals were send home early due to lack of prison space. It's not just a drop in crime rate (or rather, a drop in the number of convictions, which could have multiple reasons), it's also having build more prison cells than needed in the past decade. The call for more prison cells was drug related: there were so many drug runners flying into Amsterdam that many that were caught got a plane ticket home instead of being booked.
Being new to the Netherlands I didn't know this. Now according to many people, it's keeping more people in prison that reduces crime, so if we're sending people home early due to lack of prison space, then we clearly must have more crime, right? Naturally the situation isn't that simplistic, but I thought I'd do some digging.

For the following table, each statistic is per 100,000 people for the USA and the Netherlands.

United StatesNetherlands
Car thefts387.9233.6
Teen Suicide (15-24 years)13.76.8

Congratulations USA for totally kicking the Netherlands' tail in embezzlements.

If you keep digging, you find that the Netherlands still has a fair amount of crime, but not as much as the US and there's relatively little violent crime. In fact, I find that I can walk down the darkest alleys and streets late at night here in Amsterdam (the most "crime-ridden" city in the Netherlands) and I feel perfectly safe.

So how's incarcerating almost 1% of your citizens working out for you America?


  1. Oh sure, typical liberal slanting the facts and making it seam like embezzlements is the only way the U. S. of A. stands out ... but there's more: look at BICYCLE THEFTS, yeah? It will probably happen to *you* this year, or next. Now do you still feel safe?

    Yo' G. I got yer Bike!

  2. Strange that with embezzlement...

    Ponzi, Enron... Both familiar names from America.
    (A Ponzi scheme is called a Pyramid scheme in most of Europe. Ponzi was the guy who 'popularized' it in America)

    Hopefully, most internetters know all about our friends in Nigeria who has fallen on hard times and need help to transfer a few million $ out of the country?
    Did you also know that they really enjoy using internet caf├ęs in Amsterdam?

  3. @anthony-lion: it's worth noting that those are simply the known embezzlements :)

  4. Of course...

    It's not as if I mentioned half the banks in America, or Congress...

    Spanish farmers, two thirds of the International Whaling Comission, most EU paperpushers... Or...

  5. I’ll take increased bike theft in exchange for a 3:1 reduction in violent crime (cf. numbers for murders, assaults, and rapes).

  6. @Aristotle: but, but, but ... you can't rely on Darwinian selection with mere bike theft!

    /me suspects he knows the person responsible for that bike theft post and that there was more than a little humour involved :)

  7. Ahh. D’uh, I should have caught on. :-)

  8. What the hell is an embezzlement lol?

  9. Well when Holland gives in to crime and indecency as opposed to fighting it, i suppose, they would have less "crime".