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Blacks and Whites as Victims and Offenders in Aggressive Crime in the US: Myths and Realities

NCJ Number
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume: 30 Issue: 1/2 Dated: 1999 Pages: 1-33
Nathaniel J. Pallone; James J. Hennessy
Date Published
This study analyzed data on the annual incidence of aggressive crime (homicide, sexual assault, and aggravated assault) in relation to race, contrasting proportional distribution of blacks and whites among victims and offenders in relation to their representation in the general U.S. population.
The Bureau of Census' Current Population Reports (1995) was an important source of data for the key classification variable. A parallel source of data was available on victims of aggressive crime through the National Criminal Victimization Survey. Findings show that blacks were over-represented among offenders in each category of aggressive crime. Whites and "others" were underrepresented among offenders. Blacks were at highly increased risk, relative to their representation in the Nation's population, for victimization in homicide and at some disadvantage (although not at a level appropriately denominated as risk in a statistical sense) for victimization in both sexual and aggravated assault. Episodes of criminal aggression initiated by white offenders accounted for slightly more than 73 percent of all single-offender episodes of aggressive crime, and episodes initiated by black offenders accounted for approximately 27 percent, so that white-perpetrated criminal aggression exceeded black-initiated criminal aggression at a ratio of 2.7 to 1. Blacks were represented among offenders in aggressive crime slightly more than twice their representation in the Nation's population. It was more than five times as likely that a white victim was attacked by a white offender than by a black offender and nearly seven times as likely that a black victim was attacked by a black offender. When gender and age were considered interactively with race, black males in adolescence and adulthood were at very high risk both for homicide offending and for victimization in homicide, such that black males aged 18-24 were at a risk level for offending nearly 28 times greater and for victimization nearly 17 times greater than their representation in the national population. 6 tables, 2 figures, and 37 references