Scenes from the aftermath in Oakland:
stories of victims, survivors and healers.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gang Homicide Study's Surprising Results

In January, the CDC released results of a study of violent deaths among gang members in five U.S. cities, including Oakland. The others were Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oklahoma City and Newark. Some of the findings were unsurprising: most gang-related homicide victims are young, male, and most are members of an ethnic minority. Most killings involved guns and occurred in public places.

Among the findings that might surprise you was one that also reflects something people in Oakland's violence prevention community have been telling me for two years now, that gang killings are not necessarily about drugs or money or turf. Sometimes it's even personal, the results of a dispute between young people who are immature and armed.

From the report:
The finding that gang homicides commonly were not precipitated by drug trade/use or other crimes in progress also is similar to previous research; however, this finding challenges public perceptions on gang homicides (5). The public often has viewed gangs, drug trade/use, crime, and homicides as interconnected factors; however, studies have shown little connection between gang homicides and drug trade/use and crime (5). Gangs and gang members are involved in a variety of high-risk behaviors that sometimes include drug and crime involvement, but gang-related homicides usually are attributed to other circumstances 

Here's the report as published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of 1-27-12:
Gang Homicides - Five U.S. Cities, 2003-2008

The CDC's conclusion: more prevention is needed, especially among young people, to discourage them from joining gangs in the first place. Gangs don't provide protection from the violence; being in a gang is incredibly dangerous.

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