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Unpacking 'Black-on-Black Crime' and the 'Ferguson Effect'

The phrases carry charged meanings in these racially volatile times. A criminology expert shares thoughts on their social impact.
Demonstrators wearing the insignia of the New Black Panther Party protest the shooting death of Alton Sterling near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department.
Demonstrators wearing the insignia of the New Black Panther Party protest the shooting death of Alton Sterling near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department.REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

In discussing the current wave of public demonstrations against police violence overtaking city downtowns and highways, some law-and-order absolutists have attempted to derail productive conversation in a number of ways.
One person who’s been trying to keep the conversation on track is the University of Missouri-St. Louis criminology professor Richard Rosenfeld, who is considered an expert on matters of urban violence. Rosenfeld has written dozens of books and studies on this topic, dating back to his seminal 1975 article “On the Social Mechanisms of White Supremacy” for the academic journal The Pacific Sociological Review.

When the term “Ferguson Effect” first made its way into the national vocabulary last summer Rosenfeld penned a study that debunked its central premise: That crime began rising after the outcry in Ferguson over the police-involved killing of Michael Brown. More recently, he produced a report for the U.S. Department of Justice in June that dug a little deeper into the so-called “Ferguson Effect” while examining more concrete explanations for rising homicide rates.