Editor’s note: This is second in a series of stories examining homicide in Longview. Click here to read the first story. Click here for more information on Longview homicides in the past five years.
If you live in the city of Longview, you are most likely to be a murder victim if you are a black male, about 35 years old, somewhere south of Cotton Street.
A News-Journal analysis of data from the Longview Police Department paints this portrait of the city’s murder victims and suspects: Although the victims are of all races, more than half of people killed since January 2008 — 54 percent — are black. Nine white victims and seven Hispanic victims account for the remaining 46 percent.
While Longview’s homicide rate is on par for a city its size — 35 victims in the past five years — the percentage of black victims is substantially larger. According to the 2010 census, blacks made up about 23 percent of Longview’s population.
“The problem that I see is that for black people to make up only a small portion of the total population, but yet make up such a large portion of violent offenses, really speaks to the cyclical problems in violence,” said Brandon Johnson, president of the NAACP in Longview.
Of 17 arrests made in connection with the 35 homicides, 12 — representing 70.1 percent — of the suspects are black.
Part of the reason, Johnson said, is that where there is less opportunity, there is more crime.
Job opportunities are limited on the south side and not everyone has a car, he said.
Based on race, the percentage of victims in Longview is disproportional to the national average, according to the FBI’s 2010 Crimes in the United States report.
Nationally, 46.5 percent of homicide victims in 2010 were white, compared with 26 percent in Longview.
Half of all homicide victims in the U.S. in 2010 were black while in Longview the percentage was 55 percent.
The seven Hispanic victims in Longview since 2008 account for 20 percent of total homicides, but Hispanic deaths were too few to be uniquely classified on the 2010 national report.
Age, gender, location
The average age of homicide victims in Longview since 2008 is 35.2 years old. Analysis of homicide data reveals the average age at the time of death is relative to a victim’s race.
The average age of the seven Hispanic victims was 27.3 years old — 14 years younger than the average 41.6 -year-old white victim. The age of black victims is 35.1 years old.
Local statistics also vary from national numbers when cases are divided by gender.
Nationally, 22.5 percent of all homicide victims were female in 2010, according to the FBI report.
The homicide rate for women in Longview is half the national average — the four female victims killed since 2008 represent 11 percent of victims, according to police department data.
The female victims were, on average, older than Longview’s male victims: The average age of a female victim was 39.5, while males averaged 34.5 years old.
No part of the city is immune from violence. Since 2008, at least one homicide has been reported in every police beat. However, data shows more homicides occur south of the downtown area.
Since 2008, three-fourths of homicides in Longview — 25 of 35 — happened in police beats 50 and 60, which roughly correspond to Longview City Council districts 2 and 3.
The remaining murders were dispersed across the city.
City Councilwoman Kasha Williams said crime occurs everywhere, and the area south of U.S. 80 can gain a dangerous reputation if residents only focus on a specific type of crime.
Williams represents District 3, a section of the area south of downtown.
“Crime is going to happen where it is going to happen,” she said. “I find it troubling that there are people who perceive that all of the crime takes place south of Highway 80, when they look at one particular crime, such as homicide.”
Williams said she was encouraged by the decrease in the number of crimes each year — a statistic borne out by the Longview Police Department data.
She credited the work of the Longview Police Department.
“Right now, year to date, there have been two homicides,” Williams said. “When you put that into the bigger picture of a community our size, that shows that we have the right kind of people on staff at our police department.”
‘Addressing the crime’
The Longview Police Department divides the city into six beats, each with a police area representative (PAR). Those beats roughly correspond with the six City Council districts, but are not designed to follow the same boundaries.
“They are addressing the crime through prevention efforts, and that is something that is crucial,” Williams said. “They have taken the time to develop relationships with neighbors. When something happens, somebody will come forward.”
Williams said people in each community need to support and encourage their neighbors to do the right thing.
“If we are going to coexist in the community we must support each other ... I want people to be encouraged to come forth and participate in our community policing and our crime watch groups,” Williams said. “The resources are out there for us to use.”