Pennsylvania Has 4th-Highest Rate of Black Homicide Victims, Study Says

Jan 19, 2015

Pennsylvania has again been ranked one of the deadliest states for African Americans, measured by its black homicide rate, says a report by the Violence Policy Center (VPC).

The commonwealth has the fourth highest black homicide victimization rate in the nation, the study says, with 31.02 homicides per 100,000 black citizens. Using homicide statistics from 2012, the most recent data available, the VPC determined PA’s black homicide rate is nearly double the national average.

“It’s an epidemic,” says Josh Sugarmann, executive director for the Violence Policy Center.

Pennsylvania has ranked in the top five highest black homicide rates for the last nine years, as long as the VPC has conducted the study. The only states with worse records in this year’s report are Missouri, with 34.98 deaths per 100,000; Nebraska, with 34.93; and Michigan, with 34.77.

According to the study, 87 percent of black homicide victims were killed with guns. This is compared to 71.9 percent of all homicide victims in the U.S. as reported by the FBI.

“So what it means for us is that the state has an ongoing problem as far as the impact that gun violence has on its black citizens,” Sugarmann said.

The homicides disproportionally affect youth, Sugarmann pointed out. The average victim age was 29. Additionally, 81 percent of victims were killed by someone they knew.

Sugarmann said more effort on the state level to reduce violence is necessary.

“There are cities like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia that want to do more to reduce violence, want to enact local laws, put in place new policies and they can’t do that because of state preemption, because their rights as communities are very limited,” Sugarmann said.

The study showed the disproportional impact violence has on black communities across the country. In 2012, the national homicide rate was 4.5 deaths per 100,000, while the national black homicide rate was 18.03. Blacks represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, but constitute 50 percent of homicide victims.