Do Crime Figures Mask A Truth?

Michael J, Sniffen, AP, June 10, 2008

Both violent and property crimes declined in 2007 from the previous year, nationally and in most of Connecticut’s largest cities, the FBI reported Monday. But one expert warned the figures could mask rising murder rates among young black men.

In preliminary figures for crimes reported to police, the bureau said the number of violent crimes declined by 1.4 percent from 2006, reversing two years of rising violent crime numbers. Violent crime had climbed 1.9 percent in 2006 and 2.3 percent in 2005, alarming federal and local officials.

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Because the FBI preliminary figures do not contain the detailed age, race and gender breakdowns available in the final report later in the year, they may unintentionally mask a growing murder rate among black male teenagers and young adults, particularly with guns, said James Alan Fox, professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University.

“We shouldn’t be fooled into thinking our problems are over,” Fox said. He pointed out that from 2002 to 2006 the rate of murder committed by black male teens rose 52 percent.

“Violence is down among whites of all ages and both genders; it’s up among black males, not black females,” Fox said. “When you blend all the national numbers together you fail to see this divergence. There are many more whites in the population, so their decline can dwarf the increase among young black males.”

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“When you see a crime spike in a city, it’s very often attributable to young black males attacking other young black males,” Blumstein said. “The duration depends on how fast the city reacts, and the big cities have more resources and more sophistication about how to respond.”

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