Minority victims remain underserved by criminal justice system
Question: When is the minority actually the majority?
Answer: When referring to murder victims.
By: Raheem F. Hosseini/Sacramento News and Review
According to an SN&R analysis of unpublished Sacramento County Coroner’s Office data, at least 57 percent of last year’s murder victims hailed from local minority communities.
Of the 97 deaths ruled a homicide in 2014, the coroner’s office identified 35 victims as black or African-American and 15 as Hispanic. Five were of Asian descent and one was Middle Eastern. The remaining 41 homicide victims were identified as Caucasian, a category that includes individuals of Russian or Slavic descent, coroner Kimberly Gin confirmed.
Blacks were the only minority group to be overrepresented as victims of homicide—by a landslide. They represent 10.8 percent of the county’s population, but 36.1 percent of homicide victims last year.
That disproportionality was even starker in 2013, when 54.6 percent of the county’s homicide victims were black.
“It is indeed a national crisis,” said Kaile Shilling, executive director of the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles.
The coalition is part of the Violence Policy Center, which recently drew a big, red circle around the epidemic murder rates among black Americans. The center examined census and FBI data from 2012, discovering that blacks made up only 13 percent of the country’s population but half of all homicide victims.
In California, 84 percent of black homicide victims died from gunfire, the report states. More than half of these victims were killed by someone they knew, and 72 percent were not engaged in felony activities at the time of their deaths.
So no victim-blaming, in other words.
Meanwhile, survivors of minority homicides and hate crimes remain underserved.
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office recently accepted a $125,000 grant to help continue funding employees in a program that helps survivors of violent crime navigate a jarring new reality set in courthouses, hospital rooms and, sometimes, funeral homes.
But when clients hail from one of Sacramento’s richly diverse minority communities, advocates have additional obstacles to surmount—language and cultural barriers, distrust of law enforcement, fear of deportation and general isolation among them.
“They’re very busy, unfortunately,” program manager Kerry Martin said of the two advocates assigned to minority clients.
In the federal fiscal year that ended September 30, 2014, advocates offered services to 478 new victims, 20 fewer than the previous year.
Overall, California ranked ninth among states with the highest rates of black homicide victimization. Missouri ranked first, while Alabama and Florida were not included in the study because they didn’t submit their crime data to the FBI.
This article was published in the Sacramento News and Review 02/15/2015