Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt has called on churches, schools, businesses, and other organizations to help develop innovative ways of addressing an alarming increase in the number of young black men killing each other, the Houston Chronicle reports. A new national study found a 139 percent increase in the number of black suspects in Houston homicides between 2000-01 and 2006-07. That was the largest percentage increase among 28 U.S. cities, said Northeastern University criminologists James Fox and Marc Swatt.
The number of young black men murdered in Houston jumped from 42 to 129 during the study period. Hurtt called the study a “lightning rod” focusing attention on the problem. The report was released as the city said its preliminary 2008 homicide total is 294 – down more than 16 percent from 2007. Raymond Teske Jr., a Sam Houston State University criminologist, said a local Child Fatality Review Team, composed of law enforcement, medical, child welfare, and other specialists, might be an ideal vehicle in devising anti-crime strategies. He expressed concern that the public and officials may “blame the victim” in cases of black youth violence.