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Bucking Trend, Homicides Among Black Youths Rise

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Bucking Trend, Homicides Among Black Youths Rise

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Bucking Trend, Homicides Among Black Youths Rise

Bucking Trend, Homicides Among Black Youths Rise

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/98794212/98795847" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Despite overall decreases in violent crime in the U.S., a study finds a sharp increase in murders of and by black males, especially teenagers. The authors of the report say several factors could be to blame, including homeland security duties for police after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

ROBER SIEGEL, host:

After a decade of good news on the crime front, a new study finds cause for concern. The report, from Northeastern University, says the number of young black males committing homicide has surged more than 40 percent since 2000. As NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports, the study points out a racial gap, as the murder rate for whites has stayed steady or dropped in some cities.

JENNIFER LUDDEN: The study makes clear murder rates are far from those the late 80s and early 90s, when crack cocaine fueled an epidemic of big city violence. But co-author James Alan Fox says the homicide rate by blacks has risen steadily. In 2000, for example, some 850 teenage blacks committed murder. By last year, the number had climbed to more than 1,100. Fox says one reason could be the profound shift in priority since the terror attacks of 9/11. He says police department have had to take on the duties of homeland security, often at the expense of community policing.

Professor JAMES ALAN FOX (Law, Policy, and Society; Northeastern University): Now, I don't want to weigh one life against another, but when you look at it, many more people are murdered every single year in ordinary street violence than were killed on September 11th of 2001.

LUDDEN: Fox also points to complacency over an improving crime picture overall. The study finds the number of police officers in major cities has dropped more than eight percent, and funding for crime prevention programs is down. He says such cuts disproportionately affect black communities which already suffer from broken families, bad schools, and active gangs.

Professor FOX: Look, I know that people want their tax and rebates and stimuli checks, but, you know, a few extra dollars in your pocket is of little consolation if you're staring down the wrong end of a gun.

LUDDEN: Not all criminologists agree on the difference federal funding could make, but Fox hopes for more spending from the Obama administration. Vice President-elect Joe Biden was a driving force behind putting 100,000 cops on the streets in the mid-'90s. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington.

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Homicide Statistics Rise For Black Youths

The number of homicides involving black youths — as victims and perpetrators — surged by more than 30 percent from 2002 to 2007, even as overall murder rates across the U.S. have been relatively stable, according to a study released Monday by researchers at Northeastern University.

The study showed that the number of black murder victims rose by more than 31 percent from 2000 to 2007. The number of murders involving young, black perpetrators rose by 43 percent over the same period, according to the study by criminal justice professors James Alan Fox and Marc Swatt.

The report also noted that guns were the weapon of choice in most of the killings.

Last year, 426 black males ages 14-17 died in gun crimes — 40 percent more than in 2000; nearly 1,000 young black males used guns to kill someone in 2007 — 38 percent higher than in 2000.

Fox said the homicide rate for blacks — especially teenagers — has risen steadily and across geographic regions. He said one reason could be the profound shift in priorities since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which means police departments have taken on homeland security duties — often at the expense of community policing.

"Now, I don't want to weigh one life against another, but when you look at it, many more people are murdered every single year in ordinary street violence than were killed on Sept. 11, 2001," Fox said.

Fox also said communities' complacency because of the overall decrease in crime may also be a factor. The study found the number of police officers in major cities has dropped more than 8 percent, and funding for crime prevention programs is down.

Fox said funding cuts disproportionately affect black communities, which suffer from broken families, bad schools and active gangs.

"I know people want their tax rebates and stimuli checks, but you know, a few extra dollars in your pocket is of little consolation if you're staring down the wrong end of a gun," Fox said.

Not all criminologists agree on the difference federal funding could make, but Fox said he hopes the Obama administration will increase funding. Vice President-elect Joe Biden was a driving force behind legislation that put 100,000 cops on the streets in the mid-1990s.

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