Police Chief Cathy Lanier is rightfully reluctant to celebrate the District of Columbia's historically low murder tally in 2012. Homicides of young African-American men continue to occur at a tragic rate. According to statistics compiled by Homicide Watch DC, 28 Black men in their twenties were murdered in DC this year.*
The most recent complete count of the District's population, the 2010 decennial Census, reported 20,245 African-American males between the ages of 20 and 29. Assuming that number did not change significantly in the two years since, then one in every 723 Black men in this age bracket was the victim of homicide in 2012.
If this year's murder rate holds constant, one out of every 72 Black male twenty year-olds will be murdered before their cohort reaches the age of 30. And one out of every 38 will be violently killed before the age of 40.
To put DC's murder rate in perspective, consider Chicago's 500 homicides in 2012, a statistic that has shocked the nation. 163 of these victims were Black men in their twenties, a demographic totaling 56,726. That means that one out of every 348 Black males between the ages of 20 and 29 was murdered this year. That is appalling.
The survival rate of young Black men in DC in 2012 was double the rate in Chicago. But to rejoice in that fact is akin to the Sacramento Kings celebrating that they have ten wins compared to the Wizards' four.
Until we can reduce the homicide rate to a point where the murder of a single 21 year-old Black man shocks the city, addressing violent crime and, more importantly, its roots, should be a top priority of the District.
Thanks to Homicide Watch DC for the valuable work they do. Please check out the site if you have not, and consider supporting them.
*Note: Officially, the race of four of these victims is unknown, but it is almost certain they were African-American. Why? Because 91% of the homicide victims for which the race is known were Black, the ethnicity of the four Asian and Hispanic victims were identifiable by their surnames, and the murder of a white person in the District does not go unscrutinized.