December 29, 2008

Teen shootings_3a63c.jpg

[Photo by Sean Stewart, Harrisburg Patriot-News]

Another proud legacy of the Bush era:

WASHINGTON -- Murders of African-American teenagers have risen 39% since 2000 and 2001, according to a report due out Monday..

Homicides in which blacks ages 14 to 17 years old were the victims rose to 927 over the two-year period of 2006-07, the last years for which statistics are available, compared with 666 during 2000-01, according to the study by criminal-justice professors at Boston's Northeastern University. The 39% increase is much greater than the rise in overall homicides, which jumped 7.4% from 2000-01 to 2006-07.

Murders rose among black teens in 2006 and 2007 as overall homicides dropped compared with the previous year. And the 2000-07 rate of increase among black teens was more than twice the rate of increase among white teens, the study found.

The authors explained that they compared two-year periods to try to limit a statistical skewing of the numbers that might have occurred if they had simply looked at differences in 2000 and 2007.

The data confirm a pattern identified earlier this year by The Wall Street Journal, which found that while most communities in the U.S. were seeing a decline in homicides, many African-American neighborhoods were continuing to see an increase. The Northeastern University research shows that the pattern is more pronounced among juveniles.

James Alan Fox, co-author of the study, attributed the numbers to a variety of issues, including cuts in funding for local law-enforcement programs that were credited with lowering the nation's record murder rates in the 1990s. "It's hard to pin down cause and effect," Mr. Fox said.

An overwhelming proportion of the killings involve black-on-black crime. The reasons for high rates of violence in African-American communities have been the subject of debate among criminologists. Some attribute it to the migration of prison culture, with large numbers of incarcerated young men returning to their communities.

Mr. Fox said the cuts in law-enforcement programs and activities geared toward youth disproportionately affect African-Americans because they are more likely than their white counterparts to come from communities where there is inadequate adult supervision, high rates of single-parent homes, inferior schools and widespread gang activity.

"Cuts in support for youth have a much greater impact on black families who don't have alternatives," Mr. Fox said.

This is one of the reasons why the proposed library closings in Philadelphia are being so strongly protested. These are neighborhoods that don't have much to begin with, and kids need a place to go.

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