The murder rate in Israel is one of the world's lowest, according to a new study conducted by the University of Haifa, which refutes the claim that Israeli society is becoming more violent.
In fact, the study shows, the rate of murder in Israel is actually declining.
The murder rate per 100,000 residents has remained almost unchanged over the last 28 years and has even gone down over the past few years, the new research by the Center for the Study of Crime, Law & Society at the university reveals.
"If we look at the absolute numbers, it looks like Israel has become more and more violent over the years," said Prof. Arye Rattner and Prof. Gideon Fishman, who conducted the research.
"But if we take into account that the Israeli population has grown, and measure the rates of crime per 100,000 people, we find that the rate of murder in Israel is one of the lowest in the world."
The absolute numbers released by police each year show a clear rise in the incidence of crime, especially violent crime. The number of murders rose by 12 percent from 1997-2006, and the number of attempted murders rose by 37% during the same period. Another seemingly alarming rise has been seen in other violent offenses, such as assault and aggravated assault, the number of which has gone up by 100% since 1980.
However, researchers say these figures create a false impression, as they do not take into account the dramatic rise in the country's population during this period. In order to get a more accurate picture, one has to examine the rates of crime in relation to the population size, they say.
From this perspective, the research shows that the number of murders per 100,000 people was 2.35 in 1980 and 2.29 in 2006.
These numbers are low compared to other countries. In Russia, for instance, the number of murders per 100,000 people in 2004 was 18, with 7.5 in the United States during the same year.
The research also points to distortions in the public perception of crime in Israel. In the 1990s, for example, many people believed the rise in crime was due to substantial immigration from the former Soviet Union. However, the statistics paint a different picture.
Following the large wave of immigration that ended in 1996, immigrants from the FSU constituted 20% of Israel's population but represented fewer than 20% of the violent criminals.
This false perception led to the neglect of other sectors of the population that were indeed perpetrating more violent crimes.
"A more serious problem exists in the Arab sector," said the researchers. "While on average, Arab adults (over age 19) represent approximately 15% of the general population [of that age group], the average rate for reported crime stands at 42.7%, almost three times their representation in the population.
A similar trend exists among Arab teens (ages 12-18). While from 1990-2006 they represented 22.8% of the population, they accounted for 33.13% of those accused of violent crime."
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