Crime

Missouri yet again has highest black homicide rate; Kansas is in Top 10

In 2016, Durron Bailey, whose cousin was murdered, attended a rally encouraging witnesses to step forward to help solve crimes.
In 2016, Durron Bailey, whose cousin was murdered, attended a rally encouraging witnesses to step forward to help solve crimes. tljungblad@kcstar.com

Missouri maintains its ignominious distinction of having the highest rate of black homicide victims in the country — and Kansas is now in the top 10 — according to a study of federal data released Wednesday.

The report by the nonprofit Violence Policy Center looked at 2015 data, the most recent available, submitted by local law enforcement agencies across the country to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The report says the rate of homicide among African-Americans in Missouri was 46.24 per 100,000, well above the second-highest rate of 36.77 per 100,000 in Wisconsin.

Kansas had a rate of 25.02 per 100,000 African Americans — the ninth highest.

It was the seventh year since 2005 that Missouri has topped the rankings and the 11th time since 2004 it has been in the top five. This is the third time Kansas has ranked in the top 10.

"I can't figure why, I wish I could," said Rosilyn Temple, head of the local chapter of Mothers in Charge, a grassroots group that works to draw attention to violent crime. Her son, Antonio "PeeWee" Thompson, was killed Nov. 23, 2011, in a still-unsolved crime.

"It's virtually every day," Temple said. "It's babies and women. And no one wants to say anything. Why are we allowing people to murder anybody? We don't have to like each other, but we have to respect each other."

The national black homicide rate in 2015 was 18.68 per 100,000. The overall homicide rate for all races was 4.62. The rate for whites was 2.67.

"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 report stated.

The study does not offer any explanations for differences among the states or races. And it cautions that the results are only as reliable as the data submitted by local law enforcement to the Supplementary Homicide Report to the FBI.

In 2015, blacks represented 13 percent of the population of the United States but they accounted for 51 percent of all homicide victims.

According to the report, in 2015:

Missouri had 332 black homicide victims, of which 6 percent were younger than 18. The average age was 29. Kansas had 45 black homicide victims, of which 14 percent were younger than 18. The average age was 27.

Males comprised 89 percent of Missouri victims and 73 percent of Kansas victims.

For homicides in which a weapon could be identified, 93 percent of Missouri victims were killed with guns; Kansas' rate was 82 percent.

For Missouri homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 52 percent were not related to the commission of any other felony. Kansas' rate was 91 percent.

The top 10 states for the rate of black homicide victims were Missouri, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Alaska, Nebraska, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kansas and West Virginia.

"For black victims of homicide, like all victims of homicide, guns — usually handguns — are far and away the number-one murder tool," the report stated. "Successful efforts to reduce America's black homicide toll, like America's homicide toll as a whole, must put a focus on reducing access and exposure to firearms."

Ken Novak, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, put into context recent trends in homicides and other violent crime in Kansas City. Novak said that homicide rates are lower than at points in th

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