SACRAMENTO – Monterey County’s young people suffer a murder rate that leads all California counties and is nearly three times the overall state rate for the same age range, according to “Lost Youth: A County-by-County Analysis of 2009 California Homicide Victims Ages 10 to 24,” a new study analyzing unpublished California Department of Justice Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC).
The study funded by The California Wellness Foundation, uses the most recent data available to rank California counties by their homicide rates for youth and young adults ages 10 to 24.
The study finds overwhelmingly that firearms, usually handguns, are the weapon of choice. The study also shows that there are vast disparities between groups: in California, young African-Americans are more than 14 times more likely to be murdered than young whites.
Josh Sugarmann, VPC executive director and study co-author states, “Comparing county by county the homicide rates for youth and young adults in California shows the continuing, urgent need for tailored, localized approaches to reducing youth homicide that integrate prevention and intervention while engaging local leaders and community stakeholders.”
TOP 10 COUNTIES BY YOUTH HOMICIDE RATE
The top 10 counties with each county's corresponding homicide victimization rate for its population of Californians ages 10 to 24 are:
1) Monterey County, 31.24 per 100,000
2) Alameda County, 20.69 per 100,000
3) Kern County, 19.98 per 100,000
4) Contra Costa County, 19.17 per 100,000
5) Tulare County, 15.31 per 100,000
6) Los Angeles County, 14.61 per 100,000
7) San Joaquin County, 13.86 per 100,000
8) Stanislaus County, 13.49 per 100,000
9) Merced County, 12.87 per 100,000
10) Solano County, 12.59 per 100,000
-State overall rate for 10- to 24-year-olds: 10.48 per 100,000.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The study states that “homicide, and particularly gun homicide, continues to be one of the most pressing public health concerns in California among youth and young adults ages 10 to 24.”
According to the Violence Policy Center, “effective violence prevention strategies must include measures that prioritize preventing youth and young adults from accessing firearms, especially handguns.”
The study recommends further research into “the identification of the make, model, and caliber of weapons most preferred by this age group as well as analyses identifying the sources of the weapons” and an “expansion of comprehensive violence intervention and prevention strategies that include a focus on the psychological well-being of witnesses and survivors of gun violence.”
The study contains a detailed analysis for each of the top 10 counties, including: gender; race/ethnicity; most common weapons; victim to offender relationship; circumstance; and location. (To help ensure more stable rates, only counties with a population of at least 25,000 youth and young adults between the ages of 10 to 24 were included in the study. The selected counties account for 99 percent of homicide victims ages 10 to 24 in California and 98 percent of California’s population ages 10 to 24 for 2009.)
The study’s statewide findings include more detailed information, broken down by a number of factors.
GENDER, RACE, and ETHNICITY
Out of the 803 homicide victims ages 10 to 24 in California in 2009:
-90% were male and 10% were female.
-56% were Hispanic, 30% black, 10% white, 3% Asian, and one percent were “other.”
Overall, black victims were killed at a rate more than 14 times higher than white victims. Hispanic victims were killed at a rate nearly four times higher than white victims. Asian victims were killed at roughly the same rate as white victims.
Firearms, especially handguns, were the most common weapon used to murder youth and young adults. Of the 794 homicides for which the murder weapon could be identified, 84 percent of victims died by gunfire. Of these, 76 percent were killed with handguns.
For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 45 percent were killed by a stranger. Thirty-two percent were killed by someone they knew. An additional 23 percent were identified as gang members. Black and Hispanic victims were more likely to be killed by a stranger than white or Asian victims.
The overwhelming majority of homicides of youth and young adults were not related to any other felony crime. For the 618 homicides in which the circumstances between the victim and offender could be identified, 82 percent were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 68 percent were gang-related.
For all races except for Asian victims, the most common homicide location was a street, sidewalk, or parking lot. Among youth and young adults for homicides in which the location could be determined, 56 percent occurred on a street, sidewalk, or in a parking lot. Fifteen percent occurred in the home of the victim or offender. Eleven percent occurred at another residence, and seven percent occurred in a vehicle.
The Violence Policy Center (www.vpc.org) is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury.
“Lost Youth: A County-by-County Analysis of 2009 California Homicide Victims Ages 10 to 24” is funded by a grant from The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF). Created in 1992 as a private, independent foundation, TCWF’s mission is to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.