Black leaders seek remedy to crime within community

January 07, 1994|By Newsday

WASHINGTON -- It didn't go well for New York City's first black police commissioner when he publicly broached the subject of black-on-black crime more than six years ago.

"I was called an 'Uncle Tom' then," said former Commissioner Benjamin Ward, who termed the escalating rate of crimes against blacks by blacks one of the community's "dirty little secrets."

"There's a kind of realization that has come around now that this violence will do us in if we don't do something about it," he said.

Today and tomorrow, some of the nation's most influential black politicians, entertainers and civic leaders will meet in Washington for what they say will be a frank summit on what the black community can do to quell the devastating tide of black-on-black crime and youth violence.

Attorney General Janet Reno, Bill Cosby, Spike Lee and the Rev. Al Sharpton are among the participants of the conference, held by the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition.

While crime and violence has gripped all racial and ethnic groups in the nation, perhaps none has been more adversely affected than the black community, experts say.

Homicide is the leading cause of death among black youths. The FBI estimates that 8,000 black males are murdered each year in the United States. Ninety percent of the victims are killed by other blacks.

Nearly 60 percent of the juveniles arrested on homicide charges last year were black. About 5 percent of black households fell prey to major crime, compared with 2 percent of white households, according to federal statistics.

The outcry to do something about youth and black-on-black crime rose in a crescendo last year when President Bill Clinton, speaking in Memphis, Tenn., said the black community must take a role in solving the problems "ravaging the community" or "we will not be able to repair this country."

Although several black leaders yesterday questioned the Clinton administration's financial commitment to solving the ills of the black community, many said the public dialogue on black-on-black crime and youth violence is refreshing and needed.

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