Six young people were killed in Santa Cruz County in 2011, a statistic that ranks the county's youth homicide rate at tenth in the state, a study released Wednesday reported.
"Lost Youth: A County-by-County Analysis of 2011 California Homicide Victims Ages 10 to 24,” an study by the Violence Policy Center, analyzes unpublished California Department of Justice Supplementary Homicide Report data.
In 2011, 631 youths and young adults were killed in California.
In Santa Cruz County, six young men were victims of homicides in 2011. All of the homicides occurred in South County and were gang-related.
Among the deaths were as he left a birthday party north of Watsonville in July 2011 and , who was fatally shot as part of an apparent gang initiation on Hecker Pass in December 2011.
Six young people also also killed in Santa Cruz in 2009 and in 2010, the two other years analyzed by the "Lost Youth" study. The Santa Cruz County youth homicide rate has held steady at more than 9 per 100,000 for all three years.
Overall, the youth homicide rate in the state is declining, from 31.24 per 100,000 in 2009 to 16.96 per 100,000 in 2011, the study reported.Youth and Young Adult Homicides 2011 2010 2009 County # of Victims Rate per 100,000 County Ranking by Rate # of Victims Rate per 100,000 County Ranking by Rate # of Victims Rate per 100,000 County Ranking by Rate Marin 1 2.63 28 2 5.35 20 1 2.50 32 Napa 0 0.00 30 (tie) 0 0.00 31 (tie) 0 0.00 35 San Mateo 9 7.26 15 9 7.26 15 9 7.39 17 Santa Clara 19 5.54 19 7 2.05 27 18 5.49 23 Santa Cruz 6 9.40 10 6 9.73 14 6 9.45 15 Sonoma 4 4.24 21 0 0.00 31 (tie) 2 2.20 33
Throughout the state, firearms—usually handguns—are the weapon of choice in the homicides of youth and young adults, according to the study.
- 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.
- There were 70 victims (11 percent) killed with knives or other cutting instruments, 11 victims (2 percent) killed by a blunt object, and 8 victims (1 percent) killed by bodily force.
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.
- 91 percent of homicide victims ages 10-24 in 2011 were male and 9 percent were female.
- 55 percent were Hispanic, 32 percent black, 8 percent white, 5 percent Asian, and less than one percent were “other.”
The victim-to-offender relationship was identified in just over half of the 631 homicides. In those cases, one-third of victims were killed by someone they knew and more than half were murdered by a stranger. Another 15 percent were gang-motivated slayings.
Across the state, San Joaquin County has the most severe youth violence mortality rate, with 35 homicide victims ages 10 to 24, a rate 21.29 per 100,000.
More young people were killed in other, more populous counties, though. Los Angeles County experienced 207 homicide deaths for this age group and, in Northern California, Alameda County was the most violent, with 50 youth killed in homicides, according to the study.
California counties without a population of at least 25,000 youth and young adults between the ages of 10 to 24 were omitted from the report.