Why is violent crime so rare in Iceland?


The state-owned Harpa concert hall and conference center

…Before my first visit to Reykjavik in August 2012, my law school thesis was settled – a study of cyber warfare and the Geneva conventions.

But a week in Iceland changed my perspective. I was pleasantly flummoxed by what I saw.

Violent crime was virtually non-existent. People seemed relaxed about their safety and that of their children to the point where parents left their babies outside and unattended.

I’d spent time in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, but those countries now appeared plagued with crime by comparison.

Once I got back to America, I changed my thesis topic…I wanted to know what Iceland was doing right…

According to the 2011 Global Study on Homicide by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Iceland’s homicide rate between 1999-2009 never went above 1.8 per 100,000 population on any given year.

On the other hand, the US had homicide rates between 5.0 and 5.8 per 100,000 population during that same stretch…

First – and arguably foremost – there is virtually no difference among upper, middle and lower classes in Iceland. And with that, tension between economic classes is non-existent, a rare occurrence for any country…

On one of three visits to Althing, the Icelandic parliament, I met Bjorgvin Sigurdsson, former chairman of the parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Alliance. In his eyes – as well as those of many Icelanders I spoke with – equality was the biggest reason for the nation’s relative lack of crime.

“Here you can have the tycoon’s children go to school with everyone else,” Sigurdsson says, adding that the country’s social welfare and education systems promoted an egalitarian culture

Crimes in Iceland – when they occur – usually do not involve firearms, though Icelanders own plenty of guns…

The country ranks 15th in the world in terms of legal per capita gun ownership. However, acquiring a gun is not an easy process -steps to gun ownership include a medical examination and a written test…

RTFA for more details.

I love Iceland. Haven’t been there in years; but, the standards I always found in Icelandic politics I felt reflected the matriarchal side of the legal system. For centuries and generations, property rights descended through the women of any family. Governance always offered a higher priority for evenhanded and fair decisions than the contested immediate context in the rest of the West.

A quick survey of the breadth of Icelandic culture that’s reasonably accurate IMHO is over here.

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