Young black male victims are less likely to get justice

Feb 9, 2015

A boy in Chicago mourns for his slain cousin
Credit Alex Wroblewki

One of the major sources for our November Illinois Issues story on young black males is the author of a recently released study that points to a way things are tougher for that demographic group in poor inner-city environments. 

As victims of crime, they are less likely to get their murder cases resolved, particularly if a gun is involved. 

That’s the finding of Alonzo DeCarlo, division chair of social and behavioral sciences at the Springfield campus of Benedictine University. His findings, after a look into 10 years of Uniform Crime Reporting data kept by the FBI, were published in January by the journal Contemporary Social Science.

He says his initial inclination about the issue occurred because of having grown up young, black and male in Detroit and “just the general sort of wondering about (how a shortage of justice) “seems to be unfair. It seems like individuals from our, or these particular areas, are not getting the same consideration of social justice as say those from wealthy areas. It seems like the individuals who’ve been killed in many instances, there’s a greater likelihood that their killer will not be found or that there just doesn’t seem to be the same weight of interest in locating them.” DeCarlo says his study shows that there is reason for reasonable doubt where social justice is concerned.

 “That homicide (resolution) rates have dropped nearly 30 percent since the 1960s is a national concern,’’ he says. “The idea that this trend may be disproportionately distributed among the poor is disquieting. The argument that attaining social justice is a function of the economic status of the individual and or their residential municipalities has been made more convincing in view of the findings of this study.”

He says the consistency of the data over a decade is “significant and profound.” And the reasons for the perceptions of inconsistency have risen significantly for people on the ground “because of things that have happened in Ferguson and New York (case in which Eric Garner  died after an officer put him a chokehold) and around the country."

What needs to happen next, he says, is more “investigation of patterns over 10 years that reveal that homicide victims who live in cities with high poverty and who happen to be young, African- American and male are less likely to have their case solved or cleared.” He says additional research needs to happen into the cause of the situation. He asks, do those law enforcement agencies have resources to solve the crimes and do they have enough help from their communities?”

Meanwhile, he says that Ghettoside a recent book by Jill Leovy, a Los Angeles Times crime reporter, talks about how in the city of Los Angeles police have arrested a suspect in killings of young black men less than 40 percent of the time over the last 30 years. The book came out within days of DeCarlo’s study. He says he has been in contact with Leovy and hopes to consult with her about the way her book relates to his report.