State Ranks 8th In Rate Of Black Homicide Victims

David Chanen, Star Tribune, Jan. 29, 2007

Although Minnesota has a small black population, a study released Monday by a nonprofit gun-control group ranks the state eighth in the nation in the rate of black homicide victims.

The 57 blacks killed in Minnesota in 2004 represent a rate of just more than 24 victims per 100,000 black residents, according to the Violence Policy Center in Washington. In comparison, top-ranking Pennsylvania had 398 black homicide victims for a rate of nearly 30 per 100,000 black residents.

Josh Sugarmann, the center’s executive director, said the study is the first to rank states by black homicide rates.

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Blacks continue to outpace whites and other races as homicide victims in Minnesota.

Fifty-seven of the 138 homicide victims in 2005 were black and 43 were white. Statewide data wasn’t available for 2006, but 46 of the 86 homicide victims in Minneapolis and St. Paul were black. Those cities account for the majority of the state’s homicides each year.

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The study’s findings didn’t surprise Gary Cunningham, who oversees Hennepin County’s African American Men Project. The issues of poverty and race are pervasive and overlapping, he said.

Community-based problem

“Clearly, historic housing patterns, school assignments and segregation by income and race play a significant role in the level of homicides and community violence that take place on a regular basis in north Minneapolis,” Cunningham said. “It is also clear that we have to take a different approach. The current public policy is . . . a police response to a community-based problem.”

While it is important to put the predators behind bars, people also should be working on effective intervention and prevention strategies that address these problems on the front end, instead of paying on the back end, he said. The current policy for young black men is incarceration, “the new welfare program,” he said.

Homicide victimization has three variables that interact—age, race and gender, said Christopher Uggen, chairman of the University of Minnesota Sociology Department. It’s been a “stubborn social fact” that the rates of black men becoming homicide victims have long been high, he said.

In 2004, the national black homicide rate was nearly 19 per 100,000 black residents, according to the study, which analyzed the FBI’s 2004 Supplementary Homicide Report. For whites, it was nearly 3 per 100,000 white residents.

Uggen said the study’s rankings have to be examined carefully because the small size of Minnesota’s black population (4.3 percent in 2005, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates) could lead to fluctuations from year to year. In 2003, there were twice as many white homicide victims as black victims in Minnesota.

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The report mentioned in the story—entitled “Black Homicide Victimization in the United States: An Analysis of 2004 Homicide Data”—can be downloaded here as a PDF file. The publisher is an educational foundation promoting gun control.

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