News & Politics

Omaha, NE Is the Most Dangerous U.S. City to be Black

New study shows the homicide victimization rate for blacks in the midwestern city is highest in nation.

Photo Credit: J Slavy/

The murder rate is going down nationwide, but some places remain dangerous, especially for blacks.

The Violence Policy Center has released a report naming Nebraska the most dangerous state for black men and women, with a death by homicide rate of 34.43 per 100,000. This is twice the national figure for blacks, and seven times the murder victimization rate nationwide. 

The most deadly city in the nation for blacks is Omaha, where 27 of a total 30 blacks killed in Nebraska met their death. 

The study used unpublished data from the FBI on homicides from 2011, the most recent year for which figures were available, which also revealed that 93% of the black homicide victims in Nebraska were shot to death, and that the average age of victims was 28. The murder of Payton Benson, a black 5-year-old who was killed by a stray bullet in Omaha on January 15, is one of the sad stories behind the numbers. 

"Gun violence is a public health crisis that touches all Americans, but the impact on African-Americans is especially devastating," said VPS executive director Josh Sugarmann to IB Times. "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 IB Times also reports that on an absolute scale, many more blacks than whites are killed in larger cities like Chicago and Detroit--but relative to the small population of blacks in Nebraska  (about 88,000 of 1.9 million people in the state), its black homicide victimization rate is extremely high. 

Furthermore, in 2012, 80% of all murders committed in the entire state took place in North Omaha, an area with the highest child poverty of any black metropolitan in the country. The city also ranks first among all US cities with the total number of African Americans who qualify as low income. 

At least one academic cautions against reading too much into the findings of the VPC, given the small size of the city and state. "It is important to look at the raw numbers rather than percentages...all data must be looked at critically as there are a number of factors, including the data source, funding party, and reporting media," said Susan V. Koski, Assistant Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice at Central Connecticut State Univresity. 

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Aaron Cantú is an investigator for the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and an independent journalist based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @aaronmiguel_