Shooting young black males, a column lost to the recycle bin

See this and other 2007 crime maps at

I’m pretty passionate about the web allowing greater public affairs accountability journalism, not worse.

I was reminded of this while skulking around the Internet searching for a column I remember reading back in 2007.

Noted Philadelphia Inquirer scribe Tom Ferrick — who has since launched politics coverage site Metropolis — crunched the numbers on the shootings of young black men, a trend in all U.S. cities but one that was particularly timely amidst one of the bloodiest years in the city’s history.

Though it was written just back in 2007, it was gone. I couldn’t quite find something that fit its point, so I reached out to Ferrick. He warmly shared some of the details of the now somewhat dated piece, as he said he’s working on revisiting the topic.

If for no other reason than for my own ability to link back to it in the future and to prove how valuable the web can be in making available so much powerful knowledge and information, below, with Ferrick’s permission, I share the notes he sent me.

Again noted, these figures and research is from 2007. From Ferrick, who called this piece a follow up to something he wrote in the 1990s:

  • In 2006, 52 percent of all shooting victims in Phila. were black males aged 15 and 29, as were nearly 50 percent of all homicide victims.
  • The percent of YBM’s shot and killed is rising.  In the 1970’s, for instance, 29 percent of all homicide victims were black males 15-29 and now it is averaging 50 percent.
  • Also, it said in the last five years (this would be 2001-2006), 4,700 black teens and men in their 20’s has been shot.
  • The surprise is what a small group is it.  In a city of nearly 1.5 million, there are about 66,000 black males between 15 and 29. Yet, 5,000 of them have been shot or killed.  That’s a rate of nearly 8 percent.
  • I also looked at data about ybm’s in control of the criminal justice system and found (in 2007) that numbered 20,000 ybm’s.  That meant that three out of 10 young black males in the city (at the time of this article) were in jail serving times, on probation or parole, or awaiting trial. Three out of 10. (it was 23 percent in the 90’s)

He writes: “I also tried to answer the question: Why do they shoot one another? I quoted a 1996 Phila. study that examined every youth homicide — for kids 13-21 — that found:”

  • 32 percent of the cases were due to arguments or retaliations.
  • 23 percent of the cases was drug related, often fights over turf.
  • study also found that 61 percent of these youth homicide victims had been arrested in the past.

“Basically, the point is that the problem of violence in Phila. is basically concentratred in a relatively small subset within the population,” Ferrick writes, “And that if you are going to devise ways to lower the violence, you have to concentrate on this subset.”

I look forward to the possibility of Ferrick handling a follow up — if only so I have somewhere to link and return to more easily than clipping out a column.

“Let me just say that if 7.5 percent of the total population of a particular community has been stricken with, say, diptheria or small pox, it would be considered an epidemic,” Ferrick writes. “What we have among this young subset is an epidemic.”

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