October 11, 2022
Violent crime has been rising nationally since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many elected officials, policymakers, and media outlets have mistakenly placed the blame on young people. For far too long, youth have been an easy scapegoat for the rising violence in America. Although the real drivers of this devastating trend are complex and far-reaching, the political motivation to point to a single reason for violent crime has spawned public discourse and policy developments that have harmed generations of youth, and particularly youth of color, for a problem they did not cause.According to a recent Sentencing Project analysis, only 7 percent of the people arrested in the United States in 2019 were younger than 18, a much smaller share than in years past. This trend continued across offense categories in 2020, with the share of crime committed by youth continuing to decline. In fact, from 2017 to 2020, the total number of youth arrested fell by 50 percent, the number of youth arrested for serious crimes fell by 38 percent, and the number of youth arrested for homicides fell by 8 percent. The overall number of homicides committed by youth did rise slightly from 2019 to 2020 along with the national trend, but the share of youth arrested for homicide was only 7.5 percent in 2020 and remains lower than in the preceding years.Although the trends in youth arrests are going in the right direction, the data on youth victims of gun violence tell a different story. Gun violence was the leading cause of death among children and teenagers in 2020. Black youth are 14 times more likely and Hispanic youth are three times more likely than white youth to die as a result of gun violence. Violent crime is the consequence of historic underinvestment in communities of color. A comprehensive approach to address crime and violence should direct resources back into communities of color that have been disproportionately affected and where historic divestment has resulted in a lack of proven public health and community safety infrastructure.This issue brief highlights the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to gun violence to meet the needs of young people. It discusses how community violence intervention (CVI) programs are an important part of that approach to stop the current cycle of violence and spotlights two programs that are working to meet youth where they are.