Friday, March 28, 2008

Ignore what you see on Law & Order: Americans might very well to think of a black man when imagining a straightforward, violent street crime, like a robbery or a male-on-male assault. And rightly so since they are overrepresented in these types of crimes. But who do you see in your mind's eye if the crime is what we might call a "disturbed crime"? By this, I mean crimes like pedophilia, serial killing, or stalking. Common street crimes are covered in the news every day, so people have a roughly accurate sense of the reality. Only high-profile disturbed cases are given extensive attention, and combined with images on Lifetime, people are likely to think these as "white crimes."

In an earlier post, I reported a study showing that more than 20% of serial killers are black, even though blacks are only 12.6% of Americans. I know from earlier explorations that racial distributions of incarcerated pedophiles match distributions in the general population, but I'll document that later.

I analyzed data on 1,788 domestic stalking cases in Colorado Springs reported to police in 1998, and compared the racial distributions of suspects with the racial makeup of the city. Using whites as the comparison group, here are the ratios of the rates:

How many times higher the stalking rate is compared with the white rate

Blacks 5.5
Hispanics 2.1
American Indians 1.2
Asians .79

So, does this look familiar? It lines up just like all street violence. Blacks are much, much higher than whites, Hispanics are in between the two, and Asians are less violent than whites. Take this ranking as a rule of thumb for all types of violence, and forget what you see on Law & Order.


  1. Anonymous11:04 PM

    You mean to say that "more than 20% of serial killers are black," not "more than 20% of blacks are serial killers."

  2. anon: Twenty percent of 40 million people is 8 million serial killers. SCARY. Thanks.

  3. I've heard that a majority of people convicted of so-called white collar crimes are nonwhite. This would include things like embezzlement and forgery. You have to get into the really high-end crimes like insider trading and antitrust violations to find mostly white defendants.

  4. peter: Right. Blacks, for example, are overrepresented among embezzlers because most cases involve low-level crimes (e.g., skimming from the cash register).

  5. Kim Roberts being the latest poster child for such cases.

  6. kiera: Great example. I heard people say that blacks rob, but whites steal (e.g., burglary). That is simply incorrect.

  7. There was an embezzlement scandle in the DC government real estate office in recent months. All black and mostly female. Extensively detailed in Washington Post over several days.


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