Although there have been many advances made in the past decade with respect to dropping rates of violent crime in some areas of the country, some places are still more dangerous than others if you are a young African American. California is one of those places, according to a new study published by the Violence Policy Center.
The study, funded by The California Wellness Foundation, ranks California counties by their homicide rates for youth and young adults ages 10 to 24. The report also provides a profile for each of the top 10 counties that includes gender; race or ethnicity; most common weapons; relationship between victim and offender; circumstance; and location.
The report, titled “Lost Youth,” is based on the analysis of unpublished California Department of Justice Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data. It notes that black males in the state have a homicide rate more than 14 times that of whites and nearly four times that of Hispanics. More alarming is the finding that African American children are almost five times more likely to be killed than any other racial or ethnic group in the state. Furthermore, the study found that Black and Hispanic victims were more likely to be killed by a stranger than white or Asian victims.
These findings, though startling, do assist in providing insight into solving the problem. First, more attention must be directed toward education and keeping African American youth in school. Education is a protective factor both against problem behaviors and incarceration. Second, effective violence prevention strategies are needed to stop youth and young adults from accessing handguns. Finally, new programs must be developed to address drug prevention, job creation and positive parenting skills.
The sad reality is that state governments spend more on incarceration than on crime prevention. For example, in California, the state Department of Corrections allegedly spends more than $300 million annually for rehabilitation. If a shift is not made to focus more programs and resources on prevention, homicide will continue to be the No. 1 cause of death for African American youth and young adults ages 10 to 24.
The Violence Policy Center is a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Its full report can be viewed at www.vpc.org/studies/cayouth.pdf. –torrance stephens, ph.d.