Homicide in Greenland 1985-2010

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PURPOSE: Homicide in Greenland has not often been investigated. The latest published study documented a dramatic rise in the homicide rate from around 1/100,000 inhabitants to more than 23/100,000 inhabitants from 1946 to 1984. The aim of our study was to characterize homicides in Greenland from 1985 to 2010 and to compare trends during this period with those in previous studies and with homicide characteristics in Denmark, northern Europe, and other Arctic regions.

METHODS: We identified a total of 281 homicides by legal definition and 194 by medical definition, the latter from the years 1990 to 2010. We procured case files for a total of 129 victims (71 male, 58 female) and 117 perpetrators (85 male, 32 female).

RESULTS: We identified an overall decrease in the homicide rate during our study period. The decrease in the medical homicide rate was significant (p = 0.007). The homicide rate ranged from 25/100,000 inhabitants to 13/100,000 inhabitants when results were grouped within 5-year periods. There were significantly more male perpetrators (p < 0.001) and among female perpetrators there were significantly more male victims (p < 0.001). Sharp force and gunshot-related killings dominated homicide methods (41 and 29 % respectively), with sharp force deaths increasing throughout the investigation period. Altercations were the main motive (49 %). Alcohol-related homicides decreased in our study period.

CONCLUSIONS: While the Greenlandic homicide rate has decreased, it is markedly higher compared to that seen in Denmark and northern Europe. However, it resembles the rate seen in the rest of the Arctic. Liberal gun laws do not affect the proportion of gun-related killings. Despite the high homicide rate, women account for almost half the victims.

Original languageEnglish
JournalForensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

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