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As communities in Madison County and across the state work to reform police policies and procedures to promote safety, openness, fairness and responsiveness, they also must work to reduce victimization.

A specific goal should be to drive down the Black homicide rate.

As reported Saturday in The Herald Bulletin, Black Hoosiers and Black people in Madison County are homicide victims at far higher rates than white residents.

Indiana had the third highest Black homicide rate in the country in 2017, the last year for which statistics are available, according to an annual study by the Violence Policy Center.

Indiana’s rate was 71% higher than the national Black homicide victimization rate and nearly seven times higher than the overall homicide rate nationwide. Indiana’s rate has been among the 10 highest in the nation every year except one since 2007.

It’s been bad in Madison County, too.

According to records from the county health department, Black victims accounted for 14 of 42 homicide deaths from 2010 through 2020. That’s 33%, far exceeding the county’s Black population of 8.6%.

In the Herald Bulletin’s report Saturday, sources pointed to several factors driving the problem, including educational disparities, lack of economic development in neighborhoods that are disproportionately Black and policing focused on catching suspects instead of improving safety for potential victims.

Other conditions that might contribute to the problem include limited job opportunities, inadequate housing and poor health behaviors and outcomes.

Digging at these roots would not only diminish the Black homicide rate but also erode many problems that are more widespread, such as drug abuse and dealing, overall crime victimization, poverty and shorter life expectancy among Black residents of Madison County.

Anderson Mayor Tom Broderick should convene a diverse panel of local community leaders, including strong representation from the Black community. The panel could study and discuss the underlying issues driving this host of problems and, ultimately, help guide the mayor in implementing programs to address the problems.

Such action could help alleviate Madison County’s high Black homicide rate and other symptoms of a Black community that has been too long neglected.