Murder Rates in the US

There is a “meme” going around on Facebook that really, really, really bugs me. First, nothing on it is accurate and I hate false information. Second, I’m pretty sure the original content site is associated with a White Supremacist Group (although I don’t have proof of that as all their content is hidden behind a subscription and I refuse to give them money to find out).

The meme is about murder rates in the US. So, if you’ve read any blog post I’ve ever written generalizing serial killers, you’ll know that nearly every serial killer kills members of their own ethnic group. White serial killers tend to kill white victims. Black serial killers tend to kill black victims. This is a generalization and isn’t a hard and fast rule and several have crossed ethnic lines just fine… However, this generalization of whites kill whites isn’t restricted to serial killers. This is one of the few instances where serial killer generalities reflect generalities of other murderers. What does that mean? It means most white victims are killed by white killers, even if they aren’t serial killers.

The meme in question says:

  • Blacks Killed by Whites – 2%
  • Blacks Killed by Police – 1%
  • Whites killed by Police – 3%
  • Whites killed by whites – 16%
  • Whites killed by Blacks – 81%
  • Blacks killed by Blacks – 97%

Those percentages are absolutely not even remotely close to factual. Here are the 2018 homicides numbers in the US. First, we’ll do the actual numbers and then we’ll use those crazy percentages to see how skewed it is for fun.

  • Number of white homicide victims: 6,088
  • Number of black homicide victims: 7,407
  • Number of Hispanic homicide victims: 2,173
  • Number of Asian homicide victims: 1,896
  • Number of homicide victims where ethnicity was unknown: 233
  • Number of homicide victims of mixed ethnicity or other: 2,235
  • Number of white homicide victims killed by white perpetrators: 5,019
  • Number of white homicide victims killed by black perpetrators: 781
  • Number of white homicide victims where the ethnicity of the perpetrator was mixed, other, or unknown*: 288
  • Number of black homicide victims killed by black perpetrators: 5,796
  • Number of black homicide victims killed by white perpetrators: 968
  • Number of black homicide victims killed by mixed ethnicity or other or unknown*: 670
  • Unknown ethnicity of the perpetrator usually means the crime was not solved. Unknown ethnicity of the victim is usually because the victim is not identified or identifiable.

Now that we have the actual (factual via FBI stats) homicide numbers for 2018 we can figure out the real percentages** that should be on that meme (I will be rounding up or down to the nearest percentage point based on basic mathematical rounding rules 0-4 round down, 5-9 round up):

  • Blacks Killed by Whites – 13%
  • Blacks Killed by Police – ?%
  • Whites killed by Police – ?%
  • Whites killed by whites – 82%
  • Whites killed by Blacks – 13%
  • Blacks killed by Blacks – 78%

The police custody deaths is much harder to find. In 2018 there were a total of 992 incidents of fatal police shootings in the US. However, we can be sure that there were more white that died in fatal police shootings in 2018 than blacks and not because police “evenly use lethal force,” but because there are more white people in the US than black people and because stats prove time and time again; white males being arrested on domestic violence charges are more likely to draw a weapon and attack the arresting officers than all other types of offenders (including murderers and armed robbers). Most patrol officers will tell you that domestic violence calls are among the most dangerous they recieve.

So what is the real numbers for these categories: whites killed by the police and blacks killed by the police? I can’t tell you. It will take someone with access to better databases than me to figure it out. And I suspect more than 95% of all fatalities in police custody are not considered homicides regardless of the manner of death; meaning they wouldn’t be included in homicide stats. Interestingly, in 2016 congress passed a law mandating the reporting of all deaths that occur during pursuit, apprehension, arrest, transport, and other forms of “in custody” by every law enforcement agency in the US. However, if the information is being collected it hasn’t been released for public scrutiny.

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