THURSDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- The typical victim of gang-related homicide is a young minority male killed with a gun, but most of these murders aren't drug-related, according to a new U.S. government report.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers analyzed 2003-2008 data from large cities in 17 states. They say five cities have the highest levels of gang murders -- Los Angeles; Oklahoma City; Long Beach, Calif.; Oakland, Calif.; and Newark, N.J.
In 80 percent of cases, males were the victims, with guns involved in more than 90 percent of killings (significantly more than non-gang-related homicides). Bystanders were the victims in less than 6 percent of gang-related homicides, the CDC said.
The toll in lost lives is significant, the agency noted. In Los Angeles and Long Beach, for example, gang murders accounted for the majority of murders among 15- to 24-year-olds (61 and 69 percent, respectively). Victims of gang-related murders are typically younger than victims of non-gang murders, the CDC said, and murder remains the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds across the United States.
"Violence -- including gang homicides -- is a significant public health problem," Linda Degutis, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in an agency news release.
Minority youth are hit especially hard, the agency added, although patterns differ by locale. For example, Hispanics accounted for a significantly higher proportion of gang murder victims in Los Angeles and Oakland. In Oklahoma City, blacks accounted for a significantly higher proportion of gang murder victims than non-gang murder victims.
One surprising finding: Despite the public's belief that many gang murders directly involved drugs, the CDC report found that not to be the case.
In the cities covered by the study, the proportion of gang homicides linked to drugs and oth
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