Murder rates among African American youth are on the rise, and the increase may continue unless we develop more youth programs and/or greater police presence in communities, according to a new report by two criminal justice professors at Northeastern University. James Alan Fox and Marc L. Swatt cite cuts in federal support for afterschool programs, community policing and juvenile crime prevention, coupled with weaker gun laws, as key factors in the growth of racial disparities in violent crime.   Their study finds a sharp increase in the number of African American youth committing murders from 2000 to 2007, from 851 to 1,142 for an increase of 34 percent. In that same period, the number for white youths barely changed, from 539 to 547. In one example, in Milwaukee, the report finds that from 2000 to 2007, murders by white youth ages 14 to 24 rose by four percent while murders by African Americans the same age rose by 62 percent.

Authors note that “time-of-day patterns of violent crime victimization for youngsters, ages six to 17 reveal clear differences between school days and out-of-school periods. On school days, the risk spikes during the afterschool hours – prime time for juvenile crime – while the late evening hours are most problematic on non-school days, particularly summertime weekends.” “We got so complacent we started seeing budget cuts, particularly at the federal level,” Fox said. “We now have a substantial number of at-risk youth. In fact, the numbers are growing. And even though we’re in a recession right now, you can’t tell an eight year old living in a high-crime neighborhood in Baltimore or Philly or Detroit, hold on until the recession is over, we’ll get back to you. You know, kids continue to develop, and gangs are always recruiting, so we have to invest funds in prevention programs, afterschool programs, Boys & Girls Clubs initiatives, as well as anti-gang initiatives that police departments maintain.”

Authors examined homicide data submitted by law enforcement agencies across the country for the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, Supplementary Homicide Reports, Metropolitan Statistical Area Codes and National Incident-Based Reporting Data.   This story originally appeared in the Afterschool Advocate (Vol. 10, Issue 1).