CINCINNATI - One of the most troubling developments over the last 10 years may be black-on-black violent crime.
In the five years prior to the riots, the homicide rate in Cincinnati never rose higher than 40 percent. After the riots, that number increased to a high of 88, and has never returned to the lower levels we saw prior to the riots. The statistics also show that black males are killed far more often than any other group.
"The vast majority of people being murdered are African American in the City of Cincinnati," said Hamilton County Prosecutor, Joe Deters. "The vast majority. Well outside the 40 percent of the population it should be. In 2009, the City of Cincinnati did not have a single white victim of a homicide. (That) tells me that we have a subset in the underclass of Cincinnati which is committing a lot of violent crime and they tend to be black. And the reality is, you almost always commit murder within your racial classifications. So when we've got a young black man up in the coroners office, it's almost always a result of another young black man shooting him."
That same year, 2009, no white men were killed but 44 black men were victims of homicide in Cincinnati as well as 11 black women. Prosecutor Deters says he doesn't know why there are so many homicides in the African American community in Cincinnati, but he can speculate.
"I'm not a sociologist," said Deters. "I don't know the answer to that. I do know that, in our juvenile system, when you go to juvenile prison, I have been told that over two thirds of those kids in juvenile prison were raised by their mothers only or their grandmothers only and they had no male authority figure in the household."
Deters' belief is not his alone. The Reverend Damon Lynch III says the family unit is suffering and therefore, so is the community at large.
"The biggest challenge is restoring the family unit," said Rev. Lynch. "The destruction of the black family is the main cause - the root cause - for all of these ailments that we see in our community. The violence, the teenage pregnancy. The infant mortality rate in our community - and people watching this - many of them know the history. In 1920, 90 percent of black families had a father in the house. In 1960, 80 percent of black families had a father in the house. In 2011, it's only 30 percent. Three out of 10."
Joe Deters agrees, saying teenagers are unprepared to be parents are having babies and that is hurting society.
"What bothers me is, it's OK for a young male to impregnate eight different women. It's almost like a badge of honor. In some parts of the community, young girls, 15 years old having babies. You know I see a girl on the street who's 18 pushing a baby stroller and she's pregnant again and you're just like, do these kids have any chance at all?'" asked Deters.
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However, David Singleton, the Executive Director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, a public interest firm that works for criminal justice reform, says the answer is much more complex.
"I think it's, number one, the clustering of poverty in a densely and racially segregated inner city," said Singleton. "Number two, I think, part of the reason is we are talking about folks who are dropping out of high school at alarming rates. Third, you've got the lack of what many would consider viable employment opportunities. Fourth, you've got the prevalence of a violent, underground economy, largely centered around drug dealing that folks find attractive and really the only way they think they'll be able to survive and provide for their families and fifth, I think it's partly self hatred. I think when you combine all of those factors together, it is a toxic brew that results in the black on black crime that we see that's very alarming and very disturbing."
So how do you stop crime? How do you prevent murders before they happen? One answer may be in the fourth grade classes all over Cincinnati.
Statistics show, learning to read at an early age is important. But the fourth grade year is crucial and can literally keep a person out of prison.
"You can guesstimate what the crime rate is going to be based on the educational achievement by the fourth grade, specifically reading. And that is really troubling," said Singleton. "In fact, statistics show two thirds of children who don't read at grade level at the end of the fourth grade will either end up in jail or on welfare. Still, while education, environment and opportunity need to be improved, some say personal responsibility and acknowledging the problems are vital. That includes Dr. O'Dell Owens, Hamilton County's former Coroner and the current president of Cincinnati State College.