THE BLOG
03/28/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pennsylvania Leads Nation in Black Homicide Victimization

For the third time in four years, Pennsylvania leads the nation in the rate of black homicide victimization. According to unpublished 2007 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data (the most recent available), the Keystone State's black homicide victimization rate of 36.36 Per 100,000 is nearly seven times the national overall homicide rate of 5.30 per 100,000.

This is the fourth year that my organization, the Violence Policy Center, has issued the study Black Homicide Victimization in the United States and the third time that Pennsylvania has ranked first. Additional states with black homicide victimization rates that place them in the top five are: Missouri at number two with a rate of 34.82 per 100,000; Indiana at number three with a rate of 30.89 per 100,000; and, Nevada and Wisconsin tied at number four with a rate of 29.83 per 100,000

As in past years, the study found overwhelmingly that firearms, usually handguns, were the weapon of choice in the homicides.

For the entire United States, the study found:

  • There were 7,387 black homicide victims in the United States. Of these, 6,345 (86 percent) were male, and 1,042 (14 percent) were female.
  • The homicide rate for black victims in the United States was 20.86 per 100,000. In comparison, the overall national homicide rate was 5.30 per 100,000 and the national homicide rate for whites was 3.11 per 100,000.
  • For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 82 percent of black victims (5,743 out of 7,011) were killed with guns. Of these, 73 percent (4,204 victims) were killed with handguns. There were 701 victims killed with knives or other cutting instruments, 247 victims killed by bodily force, and 200 victims killed by a blunt object.
  • For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 72 percent of black victims (2,474 out of 3,431) were murdered by someone they knew. Nine hundred fifty-seven victims were killed by strangers.
  • For homicides involving black victims for which the circumstances could be identified, 69 percent (3,023 out of 4,362) were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 55 percent (1,669 homicides) involved arguments between the victim and the offender.

Stating that "the devastation homicide inflicts on black teens and adults is a national crisis, yet it is all too often ignored outside of affected communities," the study concludes that for "blacks, like all victims of homicide, guns -- usually handguns -- are far and away the number one murder tool. Successful efforts to reduce America's black homicide toll must put a focus on reducing access to firearms."