For the last couple of years, when people speak of the most violent cities in the U.S., typically Chicago or Detroit are brought up first. Even when the murder rates in those areas have taken a plunge, the city with the highest incidence of black murder victims is actually nestled in “middle America”.
Omaha, Nebraska, a city of just 420,000, has grim statistics when it comes to black on black crime and poverty.
The Violence Policy Center (VPC) conducted research that shows in 2011 (the latest year in which comprehensive national data is available), 30 blacks (including 27 in Omaha) were murdered that year in Nebraska — meaning, the state had a black homicide rate of 34.4 per 100,000 people, double the national average of black victimization. Omaha accounted for almost half of all recorded homicides in Nebraska — which, overall, sported a relatively low murder rate of less than four per 100,000 people. (The U.S. as a whole has a murder rate of 4.44 per 100,000 people.) Ninety percent of these murders came from the bullet of a gun.
“Gun violence is a public health crisis that touches all Americans, but the impact on African-Americans is especially devastating,” said VPC executive director Josh Sugarmann. “This report should be a wake-up call for our elected officials to address the disproportionately high homicide victimization rate among black men and women. The longer we wait to act, the more lives will be lost.”
Adam Fletcher, who runs NorthOmaha.blogspot.com, gives a brief breakdown of what’s happening in Omaha, calling poverty in the city “staggering”:
* Omaha ranks eighth in the nation for black unemployment.
* Omaha ranks first among U.S. cities for the total number of African Americans who qualify as low-income.
* One out of three of African American families in Omaha live in poverty.
* Six out of 10 black children in Omaha live in poverty.
* More than one-third (35 percent) of black students in Omaha do not graduate from high school.
In response to the crisis, Omaha police chief Todd Schmaderer has restructured his department and assigning more officers to specific gangs. “It’s Vietnam around this block,” Larry Davis, a 50-year-old north Omaha resident, told the Omaha World-Herald newspaper. “These young guys with these guns, they just don’t have a value for life.”