A newly released FBI report detailing U.S. interracial homicides — Black-on-white crimes and white-on-Black crimes — revealed a sharp increase in the total number of homicides carried out by and on both racial groups.
According to U.S. News & World report, the number of Black Americans killed by whites sky-rocketed almost a quarter in 2015, compared to the previous year. The occurrence of Black-on-white crime saw an increase of 12 percent, as well. Altogether, interracial killings saw about a 13 percent increase, according to the report.
But despite the rise in homicides, violent crime in America remains at a 30-year low. The series of recent white-on-Black police shootings, coupled with the popular scapegoat that is Black-on-Black crime, has many American citizens worried that crime is actually getting worse. While there’s been a steady rise in the total number of homicides since the start of 2015, much of that can be attributed to street violence in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington D.C., the news site reports.
However, the race specific data compiled by the FBI presents a few key limitations. For instance, the data was confined to cases in which only one person was killed and one person did the killing, eliminating roughly 17 percent of total homicides. Also, the police officers tasked with solving these cases were required to know and provide the backgrounds of both the victim and the assailant. This excluded about 61 percent of the 15,696 homicides committed last year.
When examining interracial killings specifically, the numbers showed that the 500 homicides of white people by Black people in 2015 was the most since Black perpetrators were found to be responsible for the killings of 504 white people nationwide in 2008. 2013 saw the lowest total during a seven-year decline in Black-on-white crimes. On the flip side, 2006 had the most Black-on-white killings since 2001, peaking at a total of 573.
White people took the lives of 229 Black people last year, marking a 22 percent plus increase from the 187 Black victims slayed by whites in 2014. The rate of white-on-Black homicides in 2008 exceeded that of 2015’s with a total of 230 Black victims. According to the report, 2007 saw the highest number of Blacks killed by whites — 245 in total.
Altogether, interracial homicides made up roughly 12 percent of the 6,000 white-on-Black and Black-on-white killings committed in 2015. This was just a small increase from the 11 percent of interracial homicides recorded the previous year. Roughly 15.8 percent of white victims were killed by Black Americans last year, while 8.6 percent of Black victims were killed by white Americans.
Arizona State University director for the Center for Public Criminology, Scott Decker, said although the changes are small, they’re still worth paying attention to.
“Small changes are the lives of fathers and sons and daughters and mothers,” Decker said. “And the police don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘We’ll wait until we have more data points.’ Police chiefs lose their jobs, captains get promoted or not based on getting out in front of trends.”
The report also revealed disparities in the total number of Black and white homicide victims. Black Americans account for over half the nation’s homicide victims, yet make up just 13.3 percent of the population. Also, the number of Black homicide victims jumped 15 percent in 2015. Even more telling is the fact that of the 13,455 FBI cases where the victim’s race was identified, 52.3 percent — or 7,039 — were African-American. In contrast, the total number of white homicide victims only increased 8 percent, according to the report.
In the case of killings committed by persons of the same race, the data showed that a majority of homicide victims are slain by people who look like them.
“You hurt people who are a lot like you,” said David Kennedy, director of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. “That’s how it works.”
The number of Blacks killed by other Blacks increased to 2,380 last year, a jump of about 8 percent from 2014. However, the report showed that the rate of Black-on-Black homicides compared to the total number of Black people killed dropped less than one percentage point to 89.3 percent.
The less talked about phenomenon of white-on-white homicides rose 3.5 percent to 2,574 total victims in 2015. But white on white killings as a proportion of the total number of white people killed fell to 81.3 percent from last year.
Altogether, the share of Black-on-Black and white-on-white homicides compared with the total homicide victims of each race peaked at 91.9 and 84.2 percent respectively, according to the report.