Friday, 1 June 2007

Turkey: a den of violence and crime?

A few years back, before Darcy moved to Turkey but at a time when he was a regular visitor, he mentioned to an American acquaintance of his that she might perhaps like to visit Turkey. "Oh, no!" she cried, "I never go to places like that." Places like what, Darcy wondered. What was Turkey missing? True, bagels are hard to come by, bacon is well-nigh impossible to find, and the opera is third-rate, but surely there were compensations for such deprivations?

Darcy enquired politely as to the reasons for her immediate and absolute reaction. "Too dangerous," she breathed, her bosom heaving with fright. Now, Darcy has long had the ability to keep a straight face. In fact, in a game of cards with James Baker and Peter Carington, Darcy would not give much away. But he was hard pressed at that instant. For the lady in question was not only an American, but lived in New York. Which city, as everybody knows, though perhaps not as louche as in the past, is hardly the safest in the world. (New Yorkers might disagree, but they are a peculiar bunch withal.) Unfortunately, Darcy was not all that familiar with Turkey himself; he certainly had no facts and his surprise was due only to his impressions of life in Turkey. He therefore mumbled something and went his way.

Turkey has too many submachine guns in the hands of the police and gendarmerie? Maybe. But Turkey a dangerous place? Not quite. Or it does not seem that way to Darcy, despite comments by some Turkish and expat acquaintances that Istanbul was exceptionally dangerous. Especially certain parts. Which said expats and Turks probably never visited, but Darcy did. He saw poverty and poor paving, but nothing that worried him.

Darcy was therefore pleased to happen upon a site which he can use to illustrate certain points. If such educated know-nothings as his previous American acquaintance chance upon this site or Darcy's blog, they might learn something to their edification. The site in question is http://www.nationmaster.com. According to the data collected by this site from the Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1998 - 2000 (Darcy notes the data are out of date, but advises any readers to be patient: crime statistics do not change overnight), the following is a comparison of the crime rates for various offences in certain countries. These countries have been selected by Darcy with an eye to his international readership (over 200 visits in a fortnight - breathtaking). The worst countries in that particular survey are also given. Not all countries provide statistics for all crimes, so some will be missing from some of the lists. (Few of the surveys have more than 55 respondent countries.)


Assaults

1. South Africa.....................12.08 per 1,000 people
6. United States.....................7.57 " " "
8. United Kingdom................7.46 " " "
weighted average.................2.50 " " "
25. France.............................1.76 " " "
33. Turkey.............................0.77 " " "


Murders

1. Colombia..........................0.618 per 1,000 people
weighted average.................0.100 " " "
24. United States..................0.043 " " "
34. Turkey............................0.023 " " " (2000)
41. France.............................0.017 " " "
47. United Kingdom..............0.014 " " "


Rapes

1. South Africa.....................1.195 per 1,000 people
9. United States...................0.301 " " "
13. United Kingdom.............0.142 " " "
15. France............................0.139 " " "
weighted average................0.100 " " "
53. Turkey...........................0.018 " " "


Robberies

1. Spain.................................12.33 per 1,000 people
8. United Kingdom..................1.57 " " "
11. United States......................1.39 " " "
weighted average...................1.00 " " "
38. France..............................0.40 " " "
59. Turkey..............................0.02 " " "


Now Darcy is fully aware that statistics may be miscompiled and are often abused and can definitely mislead. However, the differences between the crime rates in Turkey and other, supposedly safe countries, is too great to dismiss as a statistical fluke. (The incidence of robberies, however, seems absurdly low.) Nor are these figures particularly surprising to anyone who has lived in Turkey. Darcy has never felt threatened in Turkey. Granted, he is physically a fine figure of a man, but Darcy would not venture out into the streets of New York at night unless there were plenty of people around. A 3 am stroll in Istanbul - anywhere in Istanbul? Darcy would be up for it, were he not sleeping.

In the one instance - murders - where Turkey appears to be a more dangerous place than Europe, Darcy wonders whether the deaths in the south east of the country or, say, the bus stop in Ankara a few days ago are being classed as terrorist killings or plain murders.

Turkey is not Heaven on Earth - as Darcy well knows and as the Turks themselves state incessantly. Yet it is certainly not a dangerous place. The moral of the story is two-fold. Turkey's bad rep strikes again, and that perhaps there is something to be said for submachine guns prominently displayed. Darcy wonders whether other bloggers in Turkey would agree?

4 comments:

Emre Kizilkaya said...

Thank you for the statistical comparison. I'm aware of the typical stereotypes, so it is clear that Turkey is seen more dangerous than it really is. However, even I wasn't expecting such a big margin with Europe.

Istanbul is the most dangerous city, it's for sure. And you're probably right about the murder figures, which are mostly boosted because of "honor killings."

A minor western Turkish city is probably as safe as Norway or New Zealand.

Ayhan Enginar said...

20 million foreign tourists a year trust in Turkey, for some reason...

Thanks for the post, A.E.

Nihat said...

I don't want to be the party pooper, but (though it's not in the crime category) how about traffic injuries and fatalities? Injuries include your skull being cracked or ribs broken by the angry it-wasn't-my-mistake homoerectus you happen to be involved with in a minor accident. We may well be one of the most hospitable and courteous nations on earth, but only in the absence of (or away from) motor vehicles.

P.S. Darcy can keep comment moderation on as he wishes. No problem for Nihat. He is old enough to know how to live without instant gratifications. :)

Darcy alla turca said...

Nihat, you are absolutely right. There will be statistics on and discussion of Turkish traffic customs. (I am planning a series of posts on what I do not like about Turkey.) Watch the blog at the end of the week / next week.