This study examined 1505 of 1573 (96%) homicides occurring in Jefferson County, Alabama, between 1978 and 1989, that were investigated by the Coroner/Medical Examiners' Office. During this 12 year period, Jefferson County's average annual homicide rate was 18.9 per 100,000 compared to an 11.3 per 100,000 State of Alabama's rate and a 9.3 per 100,000 US rate.
In Jefferson County, the average annual homicide rate among blacks (41.4) was almost six times the rate among whites (7.1). The highest average annual race-specific homicide rate was in black males (75.9), followed by black females (12.4), white males (10.4) and white females (4.1). Black males in the 25–34 year age group had the highest rate (159.7), followed by black males in the 35–44 year age group (151.7) and then by black males in the 15–24 year age group (96.2). These rates ranged from almost eight to over eleven times the rates of similarly aged, black females or white males and were over 33 times higher than the rates for white females of the same age.
Our results emphasize the high rates of black male on black male violence, the acquaintance of the black male victim and perpetrator, and the importance of arguments as an inciting event.
Moreover, we determined that while the raw numbers and rates for black homicides were and are staggering, the average annual homicide rate for black males was actually declining at a greater rate than for all other race-sex groups. Further, our results suggest that a number of hypothesized determinants commonly believed to be associated with the increase in the homicide rate among black males between 15 and 24 years of age, such as drug use, increased availability of firearms and increased child abuse were not, in fact, major determinants of the change in homicide rates.