This study compared the characteristics of homicides with at least one adolescent victim or offender with other homicides in the city of Los Angeles or unincorporated county areas in 1993 and 1994.
The unique context of Los Angeles during a peak period of homicide incidence is reflected in these data. Data were obtained from police investigation files for homicides within the jurisdictions of the Los Angeles Police Department and the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County patrolled by the Sheriff's Department. These two jurisdictions composed about 70 percent of all Los Angeles County homicides. All incidents occurred during 1993 and 1994. The study sampled approximately half of all cases (281 homicides) with at least one adolescent (12- to 17-years-old) involved as a victim or offender. A comparison sample of 267 homicides that did not involve adolescents was drawn from the remaining incidents of homicide (just over 10 percent of the non-adolescent homicides). Data from the stratified random sampling design were weighted to approximate the total population of homicides from these jurisdictions in the time period studied. Bivariate comparisons were conducted for the selected homicides and participant characteristics. Multivariate analyses identified the most significant characteristics that differentiated the two groups of homicides. The study found that more than four out of five adolescent homicides included at least one gang member participant. Approximately 3 out of 10 homicides without adolescents involved gang members. Apparently, gang involvement brought with it some additional characteristics of adolescent homicides, including more public settings, including vehicles; increased levels of firearms (particularly handgun use); and more participants (particularly those aligned with the offender groups) who were less likely to know their victims. Hispanic participants were somewhat more frequent among adolescent homicides; this disproportion increased in gang homicides. Drug issues were more prominent in non-adolescent homicides, confirming prior research on the relative independence of gangs and drugs in homicides in Los Angeles. The primary policy implication of this research is that both law enforcement and violence-prevention practitioners should focus on the gang elements of youth violence. 7 tables and 24 references
Date Published: March 1, 2000
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