Youth Violence Declines
Staff writer Kenneth Cooper reports that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown a sharp decrease in violent activities by teens in the past decade. Between 1991 and 1997, several categories such as carrying a weapon and physical fights showed decreases of 6 to 8%. According to Thomas R. Simon, co-author of the study, there was also no increase in violence in six categories. The study surveyed 16,000 students in grades 9 to 12. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Ironically, public perception of youth violence is just the opposite. Although the study reveals a decline in violence, recent incidents of school violence have precipitated a public outcry for tougher gun control laws and a move to try juveniles in adult courts for violent crimes. Although the authors of the study do not offer their opinion on the reason for the decline, other sociologists believe they have the answer. Jack Levin, a sociologist who directs the Brudnick Center on Violence, believes that the broad-based coalitions in communities have had an impact. Community policing, summer youth employment programs, clergy involvement in gang relations, and a more visible adult presence have all begun to reap results. Levin believes that the active involvement of parents after decades of 'benign neglect' and disengagement has made the difference. The tougher school anti-violence efforts are working as well. Campus police are a high-profile presence in many schools. Schools have begun to take aggressive action to expel students who come to school with weapons. This new, tougher expulsion policy was triggered by 1995 anti-crime legislation that tied tougher expulsion efforts to the schools' federal dollars. Money was a motivator, since, and between 1997 and 1998, 6,100 students were expelled.