CDC: Gang homicides actually less likely to involve drugs, other crime, than non-gang homicides

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In contrast to public perception, relatively few gang homicides result from the drug trade or drug use, or occur with other crimes in progress, according to a Jan. 27 report from the Centers for Disease Control.

The report, which compares gang and non-gang homicides, says that while gangs are often involved with drugs and crime, gang-related homicides are usually attributed to other circumstances like retaliatory violence.

CDC analyzed 2003-2008 data from the National Violent Death Reporting System for five large cities with a high prevalence of gang homicides--Los Angeles; Oakland, Calif.; Long Beach, Calif.; Oklahoma City; and Newark, N.J.

NVRDS is a state-based system that collects violent death data from multiple sources, such as death reports, medical examiner records and law enforcement reports.

The report concludes that gang homicides are unique violent events that require separate strategies from those used to combat the drug trade and other crime, and it suggests that it's more important to prevent gang joining in the first place and to increase youths' capacity to resolve conflict nonviolently.

But little rigorous evaluation of gang violence prevention programs exists, the report notes, though it adds that the Prevention Treatment Program, which trains children in pro-social skills and self-control, has been effective.

The report does question the accuracy of the NVRDS's data, though, because gang homicide case definitions vary. For example, while organized crime gangs differ from youth street gangs, they get included in some but not all definitions of gang homicide. Also, some agencies define gang homicides as simply those that involve gang members, while others require gang-related motives.

Newark was the only city of the five where gang homicides were more likely to involve the drug trade or drug use. The report theorizes that more of Newark's gangs formed specifically for the drug trade.

Other results were consistent with similar previous research. For example, gang homicides are more likely to involve young adults and adolescents, racial and ethnic minorities, males and firearms. Also, they occur more often on weekends and are more likely to result from drive-by shootings.

For more:
- go to the report

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