January 12th, 2012

Monterey, Alameda counties have highest youth homicide rates

Monterey County had the highest youth homicide rate in California in 2010, followed by Alameda County, according to an analysis conducted by the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit group focused on curbing firearms violence.

The homicide rate for 10- to 24-year-olds in Monterey County, which includes Salinas, was 24.36 per 100,000, nearly triple the statewide rate. Alameda County, which includes Oakland, had a rate of 18.41 per 100,000. El Dorado, Humboldt, Napa, Placer and Sonoma counties had no youth killings in 2010.

The study [PDF] analyzed 35 California counties with at least 25,000 people between the ages of 10 and 24. Statewide, the vast majority of the slayings involved firearms. 

Salinas has long struggled with violence.

"Our neighborhoods – especially on the east side – have experienced so much death and violence over the last 20 to 30 years that a lot of these people have started to display symptoms of PTSD," said Brian Contreras, who co-founded the Second Chance youth program, which works to prevent gang violence in Monterey County. "Our kids don’t want to go out at night."

The high youth homicide rate in Monterey County may be due in part to an entrenched gang culture and a lack of activities, he said. “There’s really nothing to do, not stuff for young people.”

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California Watch, the largest investigative journalism team operating in the state, was launched in 2009 by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Investigative Reporting. Areas of coverage include education, health and welfare, public safety, the environment and the influence of money on the political and regulatory process.