All Homicide Victims Are Black in the Capital
By Christina Huynh Associated Press | 3/30/2014, 5:38 p.m.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The mayor is calling for a task force to study black-on-black crime in Little Rock, where all of this year's 11 slayings have involved black victims and lead suspects. But the city's police chief said factors other than race, including the economy, are in play.
Mayor Mark Stodola announced last week that he is forming a team to analyze current programs helping the city's poverty, education and other issues to seek collaborative opportunities between them to help reduce Little Rock's crime rate. It's similar to a commission that Little Rock City Board member Ken Richardson has said he wanted to mobilize.
"Myself as a mayor and other mayors around the country have looked at this issue and tried to stare at the hard, glaring facts of it, and that is there's a disproportionate number of young men and boys of color who are committing homicides,'' Stodola said. "They're solving their differences, whatever they may be about, with violence.''
Richardson said the rash of black-on-black crime should be treated by officials as an abnormality, and warned that not creating a sense of urgency surrounding the issue sends a "disturbing message to a certain segment of our population.''
"It's out of whack. It's disproportionate. It's unacceptable. ... It has to be treated as an aberration rather than a norm,'' Richardson said. "We have to raise this as a crisis, because that's what it is.''
Police Chief Stuart Thomas agreed that black-on-black violence is a problem, but he said economic conditions can increase crime regardless of racial conditions. While the city has seen an uptick in homicides compared to last year, it shouldn't raise alarm because homicides are "decidedly unpredictable,'' he said.
"African Americans have traditionally been disproportionally represented in violent offenses as either victims or suspects,'' Thomas said. "A lot of the situations that we deal with in violent crime in particular, deal with relationships, and there's some economic drivers there. There are a lot of factors beyond just the normal law enforcement element that impact those things.''
The latest homicide in Little Rock occurred March 12, when 26-year-old Freddie Hinton Jr. was allegedly shot by his step-brother. That homicide is an example of the puzzle police and local officials face when trying to find ways to decrease homicide rates, City Manager Bruce T. Moore said.
"One homicide is one too many,'' Moore said. "And we obviously have employed strategies and the police department has employed strategies to try to do as much as we can, but again, they're very hard to predict and very hard to prevent.''
Black residents make up about 42.3 percent of Little Rock's population, according to the 2010 census. But police records show that during each year since 2010, at least 68 percent of homicide victims have been black. And in at least 44 percent of the cases involving a black homicide victim, police identified a black suspect, according to the records.
"Trying to come with programs that are evidence-based that actually are making a difference is something that we've got to get real smart about if we're going to make systemic change,'' Stodola said. "It's time to shake the system up and really see if there's another way to approach these issues.''