Missouri tops national list for rate of black homicide victims

The Kansas City StarJanuary 26, 2012 

For the second year in a row, Missouri leads the nation in the rate of black homicide victims, according to a national study.

And it is the third time in the last five years that Missouri has topped the annual study by the Violence Policy Center based in Washington, D.C.

The newest version of the study was released Wednesday and uses data from 2009. It does not include statistics from Florida and only utilizes partial data from Illinois, the study’s authors noted.

Missouri’s rate of 34.72 homicides per 100,000 black residents is almost double the national black homicide victim rate of 17.90, according to the study. The national rate for whites is 2.92 homicides per 100,000 people.

If there is any positive news in the report, it’s that Missouri’s nation-leading rate decreased from the year before when it led the country with 39.90 homicides per 100,000 black residents.

Kansas ranks 12th nationally with a rate of 20.04 per 100,000 population, according to this year’s report.

For their study of 2009 homicides, researchers reported 239 black homicide victims in Missouri. There were 35 counted that year in Kansas.

In St. Louis, blacks were victims in 125 of the 143 homicides in 2009, according to St. Louis police.

Of Kansas City’s 110 homicides in 2009, there were 81 black victims, according to Kansas City police statistics.

Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté said the factors contributing to violent crime are multifaceted and require a multifaceted effort to combat it.

“It’s not singularly a parent issue. It’s not singularly a law enforcement issue. It’s an issue for the entire community,” he said.

And Forté said he has made it a priority to improve the relationship between the department and the community.

“We need to do our part in the bigger scheme of things,” he said. “There must be a symbiotic relationship with the police department and the community.”

Toya Like, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said that the homicide numbers for Missouri are obviously driven by what’s happening in Kansas City and St. Louis.

And what’s happening here, she believes, is what she terms the “aftershock effect” of violent crime trends that stemmed from the explosion of crack cocaine that hit the nation’s inner cities particularly hard.

The ensuing gang and drug-related violence previously peaked in larger cities like Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Detroit, while it’s taken longer for those effects to be felt in medium-sized cities like Kansas City and St. Louis, said Like.

“That increase happened a little later here,” she said. “That’s the most feasible explanation for these numbers.”

Following Missouri in the top 10 states are: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Indiana, Tennessee, Wisconsin, California and Nevada.

To read more, visit www.kansascity.com.

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