An updated look at statistics on black-on-black murders
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman May 21, 2015

How police interact with black men is in the news again following the April 19 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

One of the more popular fact-checks we did followed the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager. Since this fact-check is a perennial reader favorite, we wanted to update it with more recent numbers.

Here is the statistic we fact-checked from a tweet:

"In the 513 days between Trayvon dying, and today’s verdict, 11,106 African-Americans have been murdered by other African-Americans." We rated the statement Mostly False because the number was a rough guess. That tweet related to data about race and murder in 2005.

Also, experts told us that most people -- whether black or white -- are murdered by people in their own racial group, and that has held true for decades.

From 1980 through 2008, 84 percent of white victims were killed by whites and 93 percent of black victims were killed by blacks.

Let’s look at the numbers for the most recent years using the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States reports:

 

 

Percentage of blacks murdered by blacks

Percentage of whites murdered by whites

2009

91

84

2010

90

83

2011

91

83

2012

91

84

2013

90

83

There are some important caveats about these numbers -- most importantly is that they don’t include every murder. The data only reflects murders that involved a single victim and offender and when the race of the offender was known and reported by police to the FBI.

Due to those shortcomings, Northeastern University Criminology Professor James Alan Fox modified the FBI data files to estimate the characteristics of unsolved homicides and unreported cases. Fox’s data shows that the majority of people are killed by someone from their own race. For example, for 2010-13, his data showed that about 92 percent of blacks who were murdered were killed by other blacks, while the statistic for whites killed by whites was 81.5 percent. That is very close to the official numbers.

Why do the murder statistics show this pattern? Well, people tend to marry, date, befriend and live with people from the same race. So it’s not really a surprise that people are usually murdered by someone from their own race.

"People tend to be murdered by those who know them," Fox said.

And even in murders where the victim and offender don’t know each other, there still is a race correlation.

"Because of the racial homogeneity of most neighborhoods, moreover, it is even true that most stranger killings are intraracial — 67 percent for white victims and 89 percent for blacks" based on data between 2000 and 2009, Fox wrote in his book The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder.

Overall, the percentage of homicides that cross race lines has increased from about 8 percent of the total three decades ago to about 13 percent of the total, Fox wrote.

"This increase does not necessarily reflect growing levels of racial hostility; it could also reflect increased contact between black and white Americans in everyday activities, including work, school, and romantic relationships," he said.

Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter

Our Sources

FBI, Crime in the United States Expanded Homicide Data Table 6 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010

U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Black victims of violent crime," August 2007

U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Homicide trends in the United States 1976-2005," Jan. 25, 2010

U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Homicide trends in the United States 1980-2008," November 2011

"The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder" (Chapter 3: Killers and their Victims) written by James Alan Fox, professor of criminology at Northeastern University, 2011 edition

Wall Street Journal, "Communities struggle to break a grim cycle of killing," Aug. 18, 2012

The Blaze, "Race wars Part 1: The shocking data on black-on-black crime," April 9, 2012

Soopermexican blog, "In the 513 days between Trayvon dying and the Zimmerman trial verdict, 11,106 blacks have been murdered by other blacks," July 14, 2013

The Daily Beast, "The Trayvon Martin killing and the myth of black-on-black crime," July 15, 2013

PolitiFact, "Fact-checks in the case involving George Zimmerman," July 15, 2013

PolitiFact, "A look at statistics on black-on-black murders," July 17, 2013

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking Ferguson and police issues in 2014," Dec. 23, 2013

PolitiFact, "In Context: what Baltimore’s mayor said about space for rioters," April 28, 2015

Interview, Stephen G. Fischer Jr., Chief - Multimedia Productions FBI - CJIS Division, July 15, 2013 and May 4, 2015

Interview, James Alan Fox, professor of criminology at Northeastern University, April 30, 2015

Interview, Eli Silverman, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, April 30, 2015

Interview, David McDowall, professor of criminal justice at the University at Albany, May 3, 2015

Interview, David M. Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, July 15, 2013

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Amy Sherman

An updated look at statistics on black-on-black murders