Black people over five times more likely to be killed in homicide

Black people have been five-and-a-half times more likely to be killed in a homicide than white people in England and Wales this century, research shows

  • Homicide risk for black people more than five times higher than for white people 
  • People of Asian ethnicity on average twice as likely as white people to be killed 
  • The analysis was conducted by Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology 

The homicide risk for black people in England and Wales has been more than five-and-a-half times higher than for white people during the 21st century on average, according to new research today.

Bleak new figures show that young black people aged 16 to 24 are more than 10-and-a-half times more likely than white people to be victims of homicide.

And the most recent data from 2018-19 puts the murder risk of young black people some 24 times higher than that of young white people.

People of Asian ethnicity are on average twice as likely as white people to be killed, according to the analysis by Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology.

The bleak figures come from a study conducted by Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology

Bleak new figures show that young black people aged 16 to 24 are more than 10-and-a-half times more likely than white people to be victims of homicide in England and Wales

The researchers analysed the last 20 years of annual figures using an approach now familiar to many through coronavirus statistics: Rates of cases per 100,000 people.

This provided a risk ratio for homicide rates by ethnicity in England and Wales.

The researchers say that, to the best of their knowledge, theirs is the first comparison of ethnic group trends in UK homicide victimisation rates per 100,000 to be published in recent decades, if ever.

They found that the homicide risk for white and Asian people has stayed relatively consistent since the turn of the millennium – around one in 100,000 for white people and a little more than two in 100,000 for Asian people, consisting primarily of persons of south Asian descent.

For black people, however, risks have fluctuated dramatically over the last 20 years.

The homicide victimisation rate for black people was highest in the early noughties when it was almost 10 in 100,000 in 2001.

It dropped by 69% between 2001 and 2012 to a low of three in 100,000 around 2013.

Rates then began to climb again, rising seven times faster than for white people to reach more than five in 100,000 last year.

When accounting for age, the disparity is starker still; for those aged 16 to 24, the 21st century average puts young black people more than 10-and-a-half times (10.6) more likely than white people to be victims of homicide in England and Wales.

Researchers point out that – per 100,000 people – the most recent data from 2018-19 puts the murder risk of young black people 24 times higher than that of young white people.

The criminologists found no correlation between changes in homicide risk for different ethnicities.

Researchers are calling on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and police forces to calculate more ‘meaningful’ crime data to help inform police resource allocation 

The homicide risk for black people in England and Wales has been more than five-and-a-half times higher than for white people during the 21st century on average

Researchers are calling on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and police forces to calculate more ‘meaningful’ crime data to help inform police resource allocation.

Co-author Professor Lawrence Sherman, of Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology, said: ‘Through a series of straightforward calculations, we found substantial racial inequality in the risks of being murdered in England and Wales.

‘The pandemic has given the public a crash course in statistics.

‘It provides an opportunity to present all kinds of data in ways that have more meaning for the population as well as those on the front line of prevention.’

‘Policing requires reliable evidence, and changing levels of risk are a vital part of preventative policing,’ said Prof Sherman.

‘Our initial findings reveal risk inequalities at a national level, but they may be far greater or lower in local areas.

‘We would encourage police forces to produce their own calculations of murder rates per 100,000.

‘Simple statistics show us that the risks of becoming a murder victim are far from equal.

‘We need more data analysis of this nature to inform police resource allocation, and promote a more fact-informed dialogue with communities across the country.’

Billy Gazard, a crime statistician for the ONS, said: ‘We plan to carry out further analysis over the coming year, which will include looking at homicide victimisation rates by ethnicity.’

The analysis is published in the Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing.

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