Drug-related homicide: a clustered phenomenon
Drug-related homicide tends to concentrate around specific areas, in particular in big urban centers. Understanding its spatial distribution can help us better understand it and think of ways how to curb this type of violence.
In 2018 the Dutch Police Association stated that the Netherlands increasingly resembles a “narco state”. Recently, the country has become one of the main centers in Europe for illicit drug-related activities, from production (mostly synthetic drugs) to transit, processing and distribution of drugs such as heroin and cocaine. For instance, in 2017 alone Dutch synthetic drugs generated an estimated 18.9 billion euros. This makes the Dutch drug market one of the largest in the world.
This situation, together with well-publicized drug-related homicides such as the case of Ridouan Taghi, has raised concerns regarding the impact on homicide levels in the Netherlands. Drug-related homicides (DRH) can be considered not only those homicides committed under the effect of an illicit substance, but any homicide related to the activity of illicit drug markets. Drug-related homicides constitute an important part of all homicides in the Netherlands. In 2016 alone, DRH cases represented more than a third of all homicides cases and there are concerns that this proportion could further increase in the future.
Drug-related homicides, however, do not affect the whole country in the same manner. Drawing from the Dutch Homicide Monitor, we show that this phenomenon is not randomly spatially distributed but rather tends to cluster in specific areas.
As Figure 1 shows, the large majority of DRH are concentrated in the west and south part of the country. When looking at the province level, North Holland, South Holland and North Brabant represent a disproportionate share of all DRH: these 3 provinces alone account for more than 70% of all drug-related homicides. Figure 2 accounts for the population size per province (per 100.000 inhabitants). This figure shows that North Holland and South Holland are the provinces with the highest DRH-rate. Limburg and not North Brabant, however, is in third place.
Again, the cases are not evenly distributed within these provinces, but are concentrated mostly in the cities. Figure 3 shows the 10 cities with the highest number of DRH cases.
DRH shows a marked tendency to concentrate within the largest urban centers, with Amsterdam accounting for an extremely large proportion of all DRH, followed by Rotterdam and by The Hague. These 3 cities alone account for 43 per cent of all DRH cases.
Figure 4 shows a heatmap (which uses the exact geocoordinates) of DRH cases without administrative/ territorial aggregation. Again, it is immediately evident the unequal dispersion of these homicides, and the concentration in the main cities.
Figure 5 provides a zoomed in image of DRH cases in Amsterdam. It can be seen that DRH is far more frequent in certain areas, or neighborhoods, while there are large parts where no registered DRH occurred in the period.
In these three cities, the centers (which tends to be crowded areas with a high circulation of people, both during day and night due to the presence of clubs, bars, and other leisure venues) present higher concentrations of DRH. The city center of Amsterdam, for instance, is among the areas with highest number of DRH in the whole country. Other areas in the capital with a high number of DRH are Amsterdam Zuid-Oost, De Baarsjes and the West.
More complete information regarding the spatial distribution of DRH (and of all homicides) would allow to ameliorate our understanding of this phenomenon. Nonetheless, this analysis has showed that drug-related homicides in the Netherlands present a clear spatial pattern and are clustered in the country’s 3 main urban centers in the provinces of North and South Holland, as well as in other cities, in particular those close to the southern border. Analyzing the socio-economic, demographic or even urban characteristics of these areas could tell us why DRH concentrates in these specific places, allowing us to better understand drug-related violence, and think of ways to intervene effectively.