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Gang Homicide Study Highlights Need for Unique Prevention Strategies

Group of teens walking down a streetEach year, gang-related conflict leads to numerous, preventable deaths of young people in some of the largest U.S. cities. However, there aren’t many surveillance systems that collect the kind of detailed data researchers need, in order to better understand what gang homicide prevention efforts would work best.

A new CDC study, Gang Homicides — Five U.S. Cities, 2003–2008, is the first to compare gang homicides to other types of homicide using city-level data from the CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). This report analyzed 2003-2008 data from large cities within 17 NVDRS states. Of those, five cities met the criteria for having high levels of gang homicide: Los Angeles, California; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Long Beach, California; Oakland, California; and Newark, New Jersey.

The study, which appears in the January 27, 2012 online edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), found more than 90 percent of gang homicide victims were male, victims were more likely to be young, and 92-96 percent of gang homicides involved firearms. Findings also show gang homicides usually did not result from other crimes in progress or bystander deaths; instead, they involved youth responding to gang-related conflict.

Research conducted by CDC and others consistently finds that gang members are more likely than their peers to engage in crime, violence, and other forms of delinquency, which increases their risk of violence-related injuries. This report underscores the need to help youth learn how to diffuse and resolve conflict without resorting to violence and to prevent them from becoming involved in gangs in the first place.

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