Jill Leovy covers homicide and the police for the L.A. Times, often in South Los Angeles. She writes today at Salon.com that the recent uptick in murder stats and spreading sense that gang violence is out of control masks some good news about African Americans and homicide, a subject she is writing a book about:
Black men are America's primary crime victims. Black men over 18 are only 4 percent of this country's population. Yet more are hospitalized for assault injuries each year than women and girls of all races combined. More black men died from homicide in 2004 alone than all the children aged 10 and under in the previous five years. Even domestic violence, which accounts for a fraction of homicides nationally, appears to have resulted in higher death rates for black men than for white women in recent years.
Nowadays, even after years of mostly falling or flat crime rates, black men still die from homicide at extraordinary rates. Black death rates from homicide in 2002 were almost six times that of whites. Black men 15 to 24 years old are most vulnerable -- some 85 per 100,000 died in 2004 from homicide, compared to a national average of six per 100,000.
But even these sky-high rates are lower than what they once were. The real story of black male homicide is that the historic disproportion between black and white death rates is shrinking, and it has been -- albeit unevenly -- for a long time....The reality is that blacks in 1976 were almost twice as likely to die from homicide as blacks in 2004, and the disparity between black and white rates was 20 percent higher than today.
Sources for the stats and some reader reaction are over there. Leovy previously did a Slate diary on the 77th Street division of the LAPD.