Study: Half of All Murder Victims Are Black

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Violent crime is taking a toll on black America. Almost 50 percent of all homicide victims in 2005 were black Americans, according to a new Department of Justice study. The study's author, Erika Harrell, breaks down the numbers and offers some insight on the grim statistics.


I'm Farai Chideya. And this is NEWS & NOTES.

The killing of journalist Chauncey Bailey in Oakland, California; the murder of three teens in Newark, New Jersey - how do they relate to the big picture of crime? Well, according to a new study from the justice department, black Americans were the victims of nearly half of all violent crimes in 2005. The surprise here may be that this number has actually gone down.

Erika Harrell is the author of the study. She joins me. Welcome, Erika.

Ms. ERIKA HARRELL (Justice Statistician): Hi.

CHIDEYA: So what are some of the most important numbers in your report?

Ms. HARRELL: Some of the most interesting key findings of the report is that blacks are disproportionately more likely to face violent crimes than the rest of the population. More specifically in 2005, they made - blacks made up 13 percent of the population. However, they were victims in half of all homicides and 15 percent of all non-fatal violent crimes in the U.S.

CHIDEYA: There's a lot to talk about black-on-black crime. Do we have any sense of how many of these were African-American perpetuators and victims?

Ms. HARRELL: Yes. Actually, in the report that we do - we did - do some calculations. In 2005, about 93 percent of the black homicides that involves single victim and single offenders. The person who was the offender was black. And also with non-fatal victimization of - the non-fatal victimizations that were against blacks, about 78 percent of those crimes involved a black offender. So it's pretty prevalent.

CHIDEYA: So how does this data compare to the last time that this study was done?

Ms. HARRELL: Well, basically it - the last time the study was done by the justice department. It's really very hard to compare because that report was done on just compared blacks to whites. This one - the present report - it compares blacks to different racial groups. And basically - it essentially shows, basically, the same thing. In that last report, blacks were much more likely to be victimized than whites, and we see that's still here in this report.

CHIDEYA: Well, Erika, we want you to stay with us. We have got a couple of more folks to add to the conversation.

Ms. HARRELL: Mm-hmm.

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