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Report: Homicide Rate for Black Americans 12 Times Higher

For most types of violent crime, there are very small differences in victimization rates by race/ethnicity. Not for firearm homicides. A new report by criminologist Alex Piquero examined per capita rates of violent victimization and found that Black Americans of all ages suffer firearm homicides at a rate that is 12 times higher per capita than for Whites.

“In short, substantial racial inequality in the risks of being murdered by a firearm in the USA is staggering for Blacks,” Piquero concludes. Though this finding is similar to the conclusions reached by other researchers who have compared the risk of firearm-related death and injury among Black males in some cities to people who fight in wars, Piquero notes that this report comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s creation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which needs a clear picture of who is harmed – and an acknowledgement of the “pressing need to improve the country’s data infrastructure regarding firearm violence,” as witnessed by his need to comb through two datasets instead of having that data at his fingertips to examine.

To reach his conclusions, Piquero went through 2019 and 2021/2022 data from two different sources, the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, which collects self-reported data from living victims; and the Centers for Disease Control’s National Vital Statistics System, which contains mortality data not contained in the NCVS.

Since the report was published in the Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing, Piquero notes its significance to policing. This is not a new topic for Piquero who worked on a 2009 study that showed that the savings for diverting a high-risk youth from a lifetime of offending equaled several million dollars. We estimate the present value of saving a 14-year-old high risk juvenile from a life of crime to range from $2.6 to $5.3 million,” wrote Piquero and his co-author, Mark Cohen. “Similarly, saving a high risk youth at birth would save society between $2.6 and $4.4 million.” 

Yet succeeding with that type of diversion takes a combination of short-term, medium-term and long-term efforts. “After all,” Piquero writes, “there is probably a 15-year-old youth somewhere in the USA who has a gun in their hand, and they may use it tonight to retaliate against someone due to an online beef or territorial dispute. Then, there is a 10-year-old who sees this sort of behavior in the street and thinks about how they would deal with such a situation in a few years’ time. And then there is a 5-year-old who in 10 years may be in the position the 15-year-old teen is in today.”




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