“If we didn’t do anything for these guys, things would be worse,” Marlon Shackelford, another street advocate, has said. “Because these guys are in gangs and most of them are the shooters.”
Blacks make up 42.9 percent of the city’s population, according to the U.S. Census.
According to the FBI, 48.9 percent of the homicide victims in 2010 nationwide were black. And 90 percent of black victims nationally — for whom an assailant was known — were killed by a black person, the FBI reported.
None of that came as a surprise to the detectives who investigate deaths in Dayton.
“Black-on-black crime is a problem,” said Sgt. Dan Mauch, head of the homicide unit. “The figures don’t lie.”
Mauch said programs such as CIRV and law enforcement task forces have made a difference in keeping the homicide numbers stable. “If it weren’t for the cooperation between agencies and the advancements in medical care, the 38 homicides we had last year would have been in the 50s or 60s,” he said.
The newspaper reviewed 346 incident reports classified as homicides by police for the gender, age and race of the victim.
From 2002 through 2007, the number of homicide victims fluctuated between 29 in 2007 to 41 in 2006. Mauch attributed 2006’s numbers to a spike in drug killings. But since 2008, the number of homicide victims remained in the mid-30s with the exception of 40 in 2009. That year, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Dayton Police Department and several federal agencies began a cooperative effort to control gang violence, the reason behind the sudden increase, Mauch said.
The continual climb, however, in the percentage of black victims appears to have multiple factors.
“It strikes me as very high,” Art Jipson, University of Dayton criminology professor, said of the percentage of Dayton homicide victims who were black.
By comparison, 67 percent of New York City’s homicide victims in 2010 were black, according to that city’s Police Department. Blacks make up 25 percent of New York City’s population, according to the Census.
For CIRV’s Byrd, part of the explanation for the increased percentage of black homicide victims is Dayton’s long economic recession.
“Half of it is economy. There are no jobs, and there are more people doing nothing,” he said.
Professor Jipson agreed. “There is evidence that indicates as the economy worsens, there is an increase in some particular crimes, while the overall crime rate has dropped,” he said. Dayton is unique in some aspects because of its long-term decline in “good jobs, those that not only pay well but have benefits,” Jipson said.
“It used to be there was always someone in the extended family who had a good job who you could go to for help,” Byrd said. “Now everybody is hurting, everybody is angry.”
With that anger, hopelessness and poverty comes violence, Byrd said. He said he believes there should be more positive examples and more people who care. “The community, the churches, the police should all be sending the same message: Dayton does care,” he said.
Sean Walton Sr., director of youth initiative for the Community Action Partnership, agrees. His program mentors 50 kids between 7 and 18. Besides having easy access to guns and drugs, many have grown up in a culture that prizes things over people. He talks about an underground economy where crime can be a method of getting stuff.
“I ask my kids who have lost their fathers to the violence or to prison, ‘Would you rather have your father back, or would you rather have stuff?’ Not one has ever chosen stuff over their father. I suspect their fathers never knew that.”