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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Black lives matter? Indiana leads nation in rate of Black homicide victims

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While vocal activists nationwide work to impart the truth that Black lives matter, research continues to justify the need for such movements.

A new study published this month by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) puts Indiana in an unfortunate top spot in the nation with the highest rate of Black homicide victimization. Nationally, the picture is grim.

Big picture, the report concludes Black people are disproportionately victims of homicide. Though Blacks make up only 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for half of all homicide victims.

The study uses data submitted to the FBI by local law enforcement agencies; the data used in this year’s report comes from 2013 and is the most recent data available.

According to the report, 6,217 homicide victims in the United States in 2013 were Black, which translates to a Black homicide victimization rate of 16.91 per 100,000. This means that almost 17 of every 100,000 Black people were victims of homicide in the U.S. in 2013.

The overall national homicide rate was 4.27 per 100,000, while the rate for white victims was 2.54 per 100,000.

In Indiana, the Black homicide victimization rate in 2013 was 34.15 per 100,000, the highest of all U.S. states and more than double the national average.

Rev. Charles Harrison, senior pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church in Indianapolis and leader of the anti-violence group the Ten Point Coalition, said the report wasn’t entirely surprising.

“I am a little surprised that (Indiana is) leading the nation, but I’m not surprised (the rate) was that high,” Harrison said. “I know there is a lot going on in Indianapolis and in certain areas of our state — Lake County, Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, St. Joseph. I don’t think we have done a good job as a state and local government in addressing the problem.”

Josh Sugarmann, the founder and executive director of the VPC, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., said the annual study is in its 10th year, and the results are consistently “deeply disturbing and disappointing.”

“Perhaps what is most striking and most disturbing about each year is the disproportionate impact of homicides not just on Black men, but on both Black men and Black women, and the role played by firearms.”

In Indiana, the weapon used in homicides of Black victims could be identified in 210 of the 213 cases in 2013. Of those 210 homicides, 90 percent were carried out with firearms. Nationally, that number was 84 percent.

Harrison said he has seen a dangerous pattern locally tied to guns.

“These young people no longer fight with their fists. Now they’re settling conflicts with their guns,” he said. “That’s what is concerning, particularly among teens. We’re seeing kids as young as 11 and 12 years old with guns.”

Sugarmann said the goal of the study is to give fuel to organizations working to reduce violence.

“It’s one more tool to show the impact of what they do on a daily basis,” he said. “The reason we do this report every year is to draw attention to a crisis that is rarely acknowledged, let alone addressed. Our goal is to give those who are working to reduce violence one more tool to help public education regarding the impact of homicides on Black male and female victims.

“This issue does not receive the attention it deserves outside communities affected.”

Sugarmann said one reason the public turns a blind eye to high homicide rates in minority communities is the tendency to dismiss the homicides as being related to crime or gang activity. But the data in the study shows that stereotype does not hold up.

In Indiana, when the circumstances of the homicide of a Black person could be determined, more than half the time (55 percent), the homicide was not related to the commission of any other felony. So while some may dismiss Black homicides as the result of a drug deal gone bad or a break-in thwarted in self-defense, that is incorrect in the majority of cases.

Nationwide, 68 percent of the homicides of Black victims were not related to the commission of another felony.  

Sugarmann admits the VPC report could have a broader focus, and the organization is working toward that.

“One thing we have started to focus more on and draw more attention to is the impact on female Black homicide victims,” he said. “I think often because of the scale of the problem as it affects male Black homicide victims, the impact on female Black homicide victims is all-too-often ignored.”

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