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Our Opinion: Youth homicide rate slows, but more can be done

Our Opinion: Youth homicide rate slows, but more can be done

News Tribune editorial

July 15th, 2013 in News

Improvement isn't always good enough.

The rate of youth homicide is decreasing, but the decline has slowed and the numbers remain alarmingly high.

About 4,800 young people between the ages of 10-24 were killed in 2010, the year of the most recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That translates into a homicide rate of 7.5 per 100,000 people, the CDC reported.

The homicide rate hit its zenith in 1993 - about 16 per 100,000 people - before dropping steeply and then more slowly. During the decade from 2000-2010, it inched down about 1 percent each year.

A number of theories have been advanced to explain the drop. One concept links the record youth homicide rate in 1993 with rampart use of crack cocaine, drug dealing and associated crimes.

Another attributes the decline to law enforcement initiatives and/or more public health and public awareness campaigns.

Law enforcement officials generally agree that drug trafficking, dealing and usage are a major factor in violent crime, particularly violent crime among young people.

In addition, youth gangs have created a culture where conflict is addressed by violence and death is an acceptable consequence.

So, how do we reduce the rate of youth homicide at an increasingly faster rate?

One way is to continue decreasing the supply and demand for drugs.

Law enforcement must redouble efforts to keep dangerous drugs of the streets. That means intercepting supplies, thwarting drug deals and arresting dealers.

But parents, schools and communities also have important roles to play. Parents must offer guidance, schools can provide awareness and education, and communities must supply alternatives.

The YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Council for Drug Free Youth, Scouting organizations and others in our community provide a range of youth services.

We must support efforts to give our young people opportunities that are entertaining, informative and educational. We must give our youth a better chance for a meaningful life, not one that leads prematurely to a prison or a morgue.