THEY are afraid to say so in public, but many of the North's big-city mayors groan in private that their biggest and most worrisome problem is the crime rate among Negroes.
In 1,551 U.S. cities, according to the FBI tally for 1956, Negroes, making up 10% of the U.S. population, accounted for about 30% of all arrests, and 60% of the arrests for crimes involving violence or threat of bodily harm—murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. In one city after another, the figures—where they are not hidden or suppressed by politicians—reveal a shocking pattern. Items:
New York (14% Negro). Of the prisoners confined in houses of detention last year to await court disposition of their cases, 44% of the males and 65% of the females were Negroes.
Chicago (15% Negro). In 1956 twice as many Negroes as whites—1,366 to 679—were arrested on charges of murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape and robbery.
Detroit (25% Negro). Two out of three prisoners held in the Wayne County jail are Negroes. Last month 62% of. the defendants presented for trial in Recorder's Court were Negroes. Of last year's 25,216 arrests resulting in prosecution, excluding traffic cases, Negroes accounted for 12,919.
Los Angeles (13% Negro). In 1956 Negroes accounted for 28% of all arrests, and 48% of the arrests for homicide, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny and auto theft.
San Francisco (7% Negro). The victims in 896 of last year's 1,564 recorded robbery cases reported that the assailants were Negroes.
Negro leaders sometimes argue passionately that arrest statistics wildly distort the comparative incidence of crime among Negroes and whites because cops are more likely to arrest Negroes for petty crimes or on mere suspicion. Protests Executive Editor Charles Wartman of Detroit's Michigan Chronicle, a Negro weekly: "The number of Negroes booked is at least partially indicative of subconscious if not conscious racial persecution on the part of police officers."
But inequality of treatment by the police may actually tend to shrink rather than inflate the statistics of Negro crime. Says Newsman Wartman in the next breath: "When Negroes violate social morals—sex, drinking, gambling—white cops bypass this as 'typically Negro.' " Many Negro leaders protest that the police are far from diligent enough in dealing with crimes committed against Negroes—and Negroes are the victims in the great majority of Negro crimes of violence. Since Negroes, even when they are victims or innocent bystanders, are often wary of calling the police, many offenses of disorder and assault go unreported when committed by Negroes in the depths of a ghetto.