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The Cost of Youth Violence

The price is much higher than individual pain and suffering.

The local, late-evening news seems to have become the history channel of violence. Regardless of the state, violence is a central theme that appears to be increasing nationally, especially the past few years.

In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that homicide was the third-leading cause of death in children ages 10 to 14. It was the second-leading cause of death in children ages 15 to 19. About 5,764 people ages 10 to 24 are murdered each year. That number translates to about 16 young people killed per day.

Not only does violence end human lives, but it also affects health care costs, decreases property values and disrupts social services. I am not including suicide information, even though it is a form of violence that is also in the top five leading causes of death in young people.

It is said there can be no value placed on human life. Well, someone or some organization finally did. In 1992, the CDC established the National Center of Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) as the leader in federal organizations devoted to violence protection.

The monitoring of the leading causes of death in Americans has shed light on the stark reality of homicide. This national tragedy has a financial facet that was overlooked for years. Unfortunately, money does get attention, and people tend to take things more seriously when a monetary value is applied.

In 2007, the CDC reported that the estimated cost of violence per year is about $70 billion. If the amount of homicides decreased by 5 percent, it would save $1 billion in lifetime medical costs or one year of groceries for 169,000 American homes.

The following facts are from the CDC and reflect 2005:

Homicide

  • Combined medical and work-loss costs totaled $20 billion.
  • Average medical costs were highest among children ages 4 and younger ($13,946) and adults 80 and older ($9,680).
  • Of the total combined costs for homicide, 85 percent occurred among people ages 15 to 44, mostly because of work-loss costs ($17 billion).
  • Firearm injury was the most common mechanism for homicide, resulting in 73 percent ($14.6 billion) of the total combined medical and work-loss costs. Cut/pierce ranked second, accounting for 11 percent ($2.2 billion) of total combined costs.

Youth Homicide

  • Of all homicides, 31 percent occurred among those ages 10 to 24, costing society $7.7 billion in total combined medical and work-loss expenses.
  • The average medical cost of youth homicide was highest among those ages 15 to 19 at $6,577.
  • The number of homicides among youths ages 10 to 24 was more than six times higher among males than females, resulting in a greater burden of total combined medical and work-loss costs among males ($6.7 billion) compared with females ($934 million).
  • Firearm injuries accounted for 82 percent ($6.3 billion) of the total combined medical and work-loss costs of homicides among youths ages 10 to 24.

Human life is precious, and I found it difficult to reduce this national epidemic to numbers. The fact is nothing is more shocking than an unexpected death, but when one looks at the following statistics, can we really make the claim that these young deaths are unexpected? Here are some startling facts, according to the CDC and WMMR:

Six percent of high school students in 2009 reported bringing a gun, knife or club to school in the last 30 days.

In 2009, 20 percent of students reported being bullied.

Gang membership in urban areas is between 14 percent and 30 percent.

From 2002 to 2006, 20 percent of homicides were gang-related in 88 large U.S. cities.

The numbers speak for themselves. Stay well, and for more information about preventing violence please go to www.safeyouth.gov/Pages/Home.aspx.

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