Double number of murders in France than UK: where and why?

We also look at how the statistics compare with data from America

Three way split image of Saint-Chély-du-Tarn in Ardèche, a French policeman in front of the Eiffel tower and Marseille
There were no murders in Ardèche in 2023 (pictured left: Saint-Chély-du-Tarn) against 85 in Bouches-du-Rhône (pictured right: Marseille)
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The murder rate increased in France in 2023, while it fell in both the US and the UK over the same period. It means there were almost twice as many murders in France than in the UK in that year. We look at which parts of France are most - and least - impacted.

Most types of crime registered growth over the course of 2023, data from the Interior Ministry shows. The notable exceptions to this were for unarmed assault and non-violent theft, the decline of which would suggest that France is becoming more violent.

Read more: SEE: 2023 police crime figures for France 

The UK recorded a 14% drop in homicides in 2023 over 2022, down from 684 to 580 cases, with an overall 28% drop in violent crime according to the Office of National Statistics. 

While the murder rate is far higher in the US, it also recorded a drop of around 10% in 2023, with 18,456 cases in 2023.

However, in France the murder rate increased by 7% up to 1,110 cases in 2023.

The rates for the three countries per 100,000 are:

  • US 5.6 - total murders in 2023: 18,456 

  • France 1.5 - total murders in 2023: 1,110 

  • UK 0.88 - total murders in 2023: 580 

The murder rate in France has been rising consistently for several years, and resisted successive anti-crime measures.

 Even during 2020, when the Covid-19 lockdowns helped cut many types of crime, the number of murders only fell by 17 victims (domestic violence was cited as a cause).

That year, the head of one of France’s major police unions blamed the rising murder rate on endemic violence in petty drug trafficking among inner-city youths.

“Youths are increasingly taking up the methods and tools of hardened gangsters,” Patrice Ribeiro, general secretary of the Synergie officiers union told 20 Minutes. “They are using extremely violent means, torturing and killing over drug debts of a few hundred euros”.

However, this is not the case in the UK, where it has been suggested that the more seasoned profile of drug traffickers means that they deliberately avoid attracting unnecessary police attention - and hence commit fewer murders.

In addition, firearms, which according to Amnesty International account for 71% of murders worldwide, are more readily available in France than in the UK.

Where are the murders in France?

Marseille’s problems with trafficking and organised crime are well-documented as far back as the French Connection in the 1930s.

It is no surprise then that the city’s Bouches-du-Rhône department recorded the highest number of homicides in France. Indeed, as a whole, the Paca region has the highest murder rate in France, at 4.1 per 100,000 inhabitants.

While this rate is high, it pales in comparison to many US cities, including New Orleans (70.56 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2022), Baltimore (57.76) and Detroit (48.86).

In comparison, the highest rates in the UK were Cleveland (1.8 murders per 100,000 inhabitants), Bedfordshire (1.8) and Merseyside (1.7).

The safest departments of France were Ardèche and Hautes-Alpes, which recorded no homicides in 2023.