A new analysis of unpublished FBI data shows that the homicide rate among blacks in Pennsylvania ranks as the highest in the nation
The report, released yesterday by the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., is based on uniform crime reports from 2004 -- the most recent data available from the FBI -- and shows that handguns are used in an overwhelming majority of the homicides.
According to the report, there were 398 black homicide victims in Pennsylvania in 2004 -- 348 male, 50 female. Based on population figures, that is a homicide rate of 29.52 victims per 100,000 people.
The states that come closest to Pennsylvania's rate are Louisiana, with 29.48 victims per 100,000; Indiana, with 29.30; and California, with 28.95.
Pennsylvania's rate is more than 1 1/2 times the national average of 18.71 victims per 100,000 people, said Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center and co-author of the study.
"In short, the toll that homicide exacts on black teens and young adults in America, both male and female, is disproportionate, disturbing and undeniable," he said.
And of the 389 Pennsylvania homicides in which a weapon was identified, 335 -- roughly 86 percent -- involved guns.
Mr. Sugarmann said the Violence Policy Center, which he founded in 1988, is a national nonprofit research and educational organization funded by foundations. In the past seven years, the group has issued annual data on women who have been killed.
"We have seen policy-makers, advocates and news media use [the reports] to increase awareness and promote good public policy regarding domestic violence issues," he said. "This is the first time we've ever studied black homicides."
Homicide is the leading cause of death of blacks ages 15 to 19, 20 to 24, and 25 to 34.
In comparison, homicide ranks as the third-leading cause of death for whites in age groups 15 to 19 and 20 to 24 -- the top two causes are accidents and suicide. Among whites ages 25 to 34, homicide drops to the fifth-leading cause, behind accidents, suicide, cancer and heart disease.
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