For Release: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Annual Study Compares Rates of Homicide Victimization for Californians Ages 10 to 24 by County, Race, Ethnicity, Weapon Used, Circumstance, and Location
Study Also Identifies Local Youth Violence Prevention Programs That are Working to Reduce California’s Youth Homicide Victimization Rate
WASHINGTON, DC–San Joaquin County’s young people suffer a murder rate that leads all other California counties according to “Lost Youth: A County-by-County Analysis of 2011 California Homicide Victims Ages 10 to 24,” an annual study analyzing unpublished California Department of Justice Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The study, available at vpc.org/studies/cayouth2013.pdf and funded by The California Wellness Foundation, uses the most recent data available to rank California counties by their homicide victimization rates for youth and young adults ages 10 to 24. This is the third year that the study has been issued by the VPC and for the first time it includes a new “What Works” section detailing the need for prevention over “suppression” strategies in reducing youth violence and looking at three successful youth violence prevention programs in Salinas, Oakland, and Los Angeles as well as proposed federal initiatives such as the “Youth PROMISE Act.”
San Joaquin County’s homicide victimization rate for 10- to 24-year-olds of 21.29 per 100,000 was nearly three times the state’s overall rate of 7.87 per 100,000 for this age group. Monterey County, which had ranked first in youth homicide victimization in 2009 and 2010, dropped to third as the result of a significant and continuing decrease in its homicide rate for this age group: from 31.24 per 100,000 in 2009 to 16.96 per 100,000 in 2011. Second Chance Family and Youth Services, located in Salinas in Monterey County, is one of the three youth violence prevention programs detailed in the VPC report (the others are Los Angeles’ Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) Program and programs conducted by Oakland’s Youth Alive!).
Statewide, the homicide victimization rate for Californians ages 10 to 24 continued to drop–from 10.48 per 100,000 in 2009, to 8.48 per 100,000 in 2010, down to 7.87 per 100,000 in 2011. The appendix from the study comparing California counties’ 2009, 2010, and 2011 rankings can be found separately at vpc.org/studies/cayouth2013ap4.pdf.
The study finds overwhelmingly that firearms, usually handguns, are the weapon of choice in the homicides of youth and young adults. The study also shows that there are vast demographic disparities: in California, young African-Americans are more than 18 times more likely to be murdered than young whites; young Hispanics are more than four times more likely to be murdered than young whites.
Josh Sugarmann, VPC executive director and one of the study’s authors states, “Homicide rates for youth and young adults across California have shown a steady decline. Yet homicide, and gun homicide in particular, continues to exact an unacceptable toll on California youth. Effective violence-prevention strategies in California that stress tailored, localized approaches that engage local leaders and community stakeholders are leading the way in reducing this lethal toll. The strategies that are working to reduce youth violence in California can and should serve as a model for other states and the nation.”
TOP 10 COUNTIES BY YOUTH HOMICIDE VICTIMIZATION RATE
The top 10 counties with each county’s corresponding homicide victimization rate for its population of Californians ages 10 to 24 are:
1) San Joaquin County, 21.29 per 100,000
2) San Francisco County, 18.04 per 100,000
3) Monterey County, 16.96 per 100,000
4) Alameda County, 16.82 per 100,000
5) Contra Costa County, 14.74 per 100,000
6) Solano County, 13.71 per 100,000
7) Tulare County, 13.43 per 100,000
8) Stanislaus County, 9.92 per 100,000
9) Los Angeles County, 9.55 per 100,000
10) Santa Cruz County, 9.40 per 100,000
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 98 percent of homicide victims ages 10 to 24 in California and 98 percent of California’s population ages 10 to 24 for 2011.) The study also contains a detailed analysis for each race/ethnicity.
BACKGROUND FOR REPORTERS
The study’s statewide findings include more detailed information, broken down by a number of factors.
GENDER, RACE, and ETHNICITY
Out of the 631 homicide victims ages 10 to 24 in California in 2011:
–91% were male and 9% were female.
–55% were Hispanic, 32% black, 8% white, 5% Asian, and less than one percent were “other.”
–Black victims were killed at a rate more than 18 times higher than white victims. While black youth and young adults comprised six percent of California’s population between the ages of 10 and 24, they accounted for 32 percent of the homicide victims in the same age group.
–Hispanic victims were killed at a rate more than four times higher than white victims. While Hispanic youth and young adults comprised 48 percent of California’s population between the ages of 10 and 24, they accounted for 54 percent of the homicide victims in the same age group.
–Asian victims were killed at roughly one and a half times the rate of white victims. While Asian youth and young adults comprised 11 percent of California’s population between the ages of 10 and 24, they accounted for five percent of the homicide victims in the same age group.
–White youth and young adults comprised 30 percent of California’s population between the ages of 10 and 24 and accounted for eight percent of the homicide victims in the same age group.
Firearms, especially handguns, were the most common weapon used to murder youth and young adults. Of the 625 homicides for which the murder weapon could be identified, 83 percent of victims died by gunfire. Of these, 73 percent were killed with handguns.
For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 54 percent were killed by a stranger. Thirty-one percent were killed by someone they knew. An additional 15 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 445 homicides in which the circumstances between the victim and offender could be identified, 81 percent were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 61 percent were gang-related.
For all races, 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, 55 percent occurred on a street, sidewalk, or in a parking lot. Twelve percent occurred in the home of the victim or offender. Thirteen percent occurred at another residence, and six percent occurred in a vehicle.
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” and urges that “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 concludes that the “current ‘tough on crime’ mentality that, despite the wealth of research, continues to exercise control over too many policymakers is not only economically unsustainable it is also morally suspect. It is time to allow programs such as the examples detailed in this report a real opportunity to improve neighborhoods and change lives through a significant shift in resources, and in the way we think about violence.”
The annual study “Lost Youth: A County-by-County Analysis of 2011 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.