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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1997202/307-0703


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Researchers found that social, economic, demographic and environmental factors play key roles in the homicide rate in eight U.S. cities, according to a report released today by the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The study, Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities: Trends, Context, and Policy Implications, examines these influences on homicide rates in Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Miami, New Orleans, Richmond, Tampa and Washington, D.C.

"In the eight cities studied, we see an increasing rate of homicide among young black males, increasing gun violence resulting in homicide, and a strong statistical correlation between crack cocaine use and victimization," said NIJ Director Jeremy Travis.

The data were gathered in the summer of 1996 for the period 1985-1994. The eight cities were chosen because they exhibited increasing, decreasing or stable homicide trends. The report's findings cannot be generalized to other cities or the entire country.

In the eight cities examined, victimization rates of black males between the ages of 18-24 were much higher than rates for any other group, and increased over time in all cities regardless of the underlying homicide trend. In Tampa, for example, black males aged 18-24 made up 1.2 percent of the city's population in 1993, but 28 percent of the city's homicide victims. Viewed another way, black males in this age group were 24 times more likely to be murdered than would have been expected based on their representation in the population.

Crack cocaine was the drug most commonly associated with homicide, although marijuana markets were cited as potential emerging sources of violence in Washington, D.C. and Richmond. In five of the cities studied (Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Miami and Washington, D.C.), arrestee drug use data indicates that homicide rates tracked closely with cocaine-use levels among adult arrestees.

In all eight cities, most homicides were committed with firearms. Guns accounted for more than 80 percent of homicides in five study cities (Detroit, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Richmond and Washington, D.C.). The proportion of homicides attributable to guns steadily increased in every study city.

The study shows some evidence of a relationship between poverty and homicide in the cities examined. In the three cities that showed increasing homicide rate trends (New Orleans, Richmond and Indianapolis), the percentage of residents with incomes below the poverty level increased between 1980 and 1990. Preliminary analyses showed that in Washington, D.C. in 1994, homicides were more likely to occur in high-poverty areas than in low poverty areas.

The study also reports some evidence supporting a link between the level of employment and homicide trends. In New Orleans and Richmond, the percentage of those employed declined, while homicide increased. In Tampa, employment was up, while homicide declined.

Homicides in which the victim and offender were related or intimates made up a relatively small portion of homicides in the cities studied, although they accounted for a large portion of female-victim homicides. In cases where the victim-offender relationship was reported, approximately 50 percent of female victims were killed by family members or other intimates. In contrast, less than 20 percent of male victims were killed by family members or other intimates. In cities with declining homicide trends, decreases in intimate/family homicides contributed significantly to overall homicide decline.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research arm of the Department of Justice, is the primary sponsor of criminal justice research and evaluations of programs to reduce crime. For general information about NIJ, the Internet address is General information about the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is available at

Copies of the report are available from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) by calling toll-free, 1-800/851-3420.

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NIJ 98-019

After hours contact: James Phillips at 888/582-6750 (pager)