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European Crime

When traveling to Europe crime is the main threat a traveler will face. Like we discussed in our previous articles, the threat from terrorism is more deadly but crimes like rape and robbery are much more prevalent. Fortunately for travelers, Europe may be one of the safest continents one can travel to. Few of Europe’s major cities rank among the world’s most dangerous cities. When cities do appear in the rankings, they are often near the bottom in every major category.

In this article we will cover some stats regarding crime in Europe and compare it with that of the United States. Crime stats, however, are often outdated or not properly reported, so we will look at averages over several years instead of 2016 statistics.


Europe certainly has it’s share of violent crime but it pales in comparison to that of countries in South America and Africa. When it comes to murders per 100,000 inhabitants, only Russia (38th) & Lithuania (87th) rank inside the Top 100 countries in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC). Belgium ranks as the highest country in Western Europe at 149th with an average of 1.95 per 100,000. The United States by comparison is ranked 94th overall with an average of 4.88 per 100,000. Europe overall averages 3.0 murders per 100,000 inhabitants with the top seven countries being former Soviet states. 

Major City Comparisons

Even though the United States rates close to Europe in overall murders per 100,000, when comparing individual cities there is a drastic difference. The major cities in the United States have much higher murder rates than their European counterparts. According to the Homicide Monitor from Igarape Institute, the highest rates for European major cities are much lower than many in the United States. Glasgow, Scotland is normally near the top of the list for murders in Europe, with an average of 4 murders per 100,00. Compare that to St. Louis (59.3), Baltimore (55.4), or Detroit (43.8) and you get a feel for how much safer European cities can be.


Even though Europe has a lower murder rate than the United States, it doesn’t mean they are immune from violent crime. Rape in Europe is an issue much like it is in the United States. The numbers on rape throughout the world can be misleading though. Sweden has ranked in the top five for the last several years but that is due in large part to Sweden changing its definition of rape. Most countries in Europe take rape seriously. They pursue and prosecute sex crimes at a higher rate than most other countries. That stance puts them higher in rankings than countries who take less of a stand. Regardless, rape is an issue and it is something that travelers should take seriously. Females in particular should be aware of their surroundings, pay attention to their drinks at bars, and never take drinks from a stranger.


Robbery is a real threat that one can face when traveling to Europe. Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom all rank within or around the top twenty-five in robbery.  Belgium has the highest rate with approximately 230 robberies per 100,000. The United States is usually on average very close in comparison with the United Kingdom with approximately 115 robberies per 100,000.  

Petty Theft

Pickpockets and purse snatchers pose the biggest threat to travelers in Europe. Travelers should always be aware of their surroundings and be extra vigilant when confronted with an odd situation. It could possibly be an attempt to distract you. Pickpockets are often young boys and girls and they often attempt to distract victims while another member of their group takes your items. The Savy Backpacker has an excellent article “How To Avoid Pickpockets in Europe – Tips for Outsmarting the Thieves that we recommend to help prepare for encountering potential pickpockets.

Bottom Line

Violent Crimes

While violent crime is a possibility when traveling to Europe, robbers and pickpockets pose the most likely threats to travelers. That’s not to say that travelers should take the threat of violent crime lightly however. Drink spiking is a real threat that one should be aware of when going to a bar in Europe. You should always order your own drinks, keep an eye on them, say “no” to a free drink, and avoid going out for drinks alone. Having a friend along with you can help keep you from being an easy target.


Photo Credit: thesavybackpacker.com

Tourist sites are pickpocket hot spots with them targeting obvious tourists who appear to be the easiest to distract. Pickpockets prey on tourists at vulnerable times such as when they are loading and unloading bags. One should stay aware of their surroundings, not flash money or valuables, and keep your items secure at all times. Travelers should study some do’s and don’ts before visiting tourist locations to avoid becoming a victim.


Robbers are also prevalent in Europe and look for easy targets. They often go thru parking garages looking for cars with bags in the open. Muggings are not rampant but are common enough that travelers should stay alert. One should consider placing large bills and jewelry in secure places such as an around the waist (or neck) money belt. Keep only spending money in your wallet or purse to avoid losing everything if mugged.

Up Next

In our next article we will discuss the health threat that one could face when traveling to Europe. 

Next Article: Travel Threats in Europe: Health Threats & Travel Tips