2024 Estimation Data Shows California County Becomes the Murder Capital of State

When people think of California, they often imagine Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Disneyland. However, there is a sad truth within the state of California, where certain counties are dealing with very high rates of homicides. Monterey County is a beautiful region in central California known for its stunning coastline, agriculture, historic sites, and natural charm. However, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) reports that California has the highest homicide rate among young people aged 10 to 24.

What makes Monterey County unique?

Monterey County has a population of about 440,000 people. Around 60% of the residents in the county identify as Hispanic or Latino. The main city in the county is Salinas, where most of the homicides occur.

Salinas has a long history of gang violence that started in the 1960s. The violence is caused by rival Mexican American youth groups called the Nortenos and Surenos. These groups, which are connected to bigger prison gangs like Nuestra Familia and the Mexican Mafia, participate in illegal activities such as selling drugs and demanding money through threats.

Gang-related violence in Salinas has increased recently because of factors like poverty, unemployment, educational differences, and feeling socially isolated. Salinas has a poverty rate of 16.5%, which is higher than the average poverty rate of 11.8% in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In November 2023, the unemployment rate in Salinas is 9.7%, which is higher than the average unemployment rate in the state, which is 6.2%. In 2022, the high school graduation rate was 82.9%, which was lower than the state average of 86.6%. Many young residents of Salinas turn to gangs because they have few opportunities for a better future. They join gangs to find a sense of belonging, protection, and financial stability.

What are the consequences?

The impact of Monterey County’s high number of murders is felt by the families and communities affected by the violence. The VPC reported that the county had 35 homicides among young people aged 10 to 24 in 2022. The rate of these homicides was 23.8 per 100,000, which is the highest in the state.

The majority of the victims and perpetrators were young males of Hispanic descent who were involved in gang activities. According to VPC estimates, each murder in California costs about $1.6 million. This includes expenses for medical care, the criminal justice system, and lost productivity. In 2022, the number of murders in Monterey County resulted in a cost to society of approximately $56 million.

The violence also affects the mental health of residents, especially children and young people, who struggle with fear and trauma. A recent study from the University of California, Berkeley, found that more than half (54%) of children in Salinas have witnessed or experienced violence in their neighborhoods. Additionally, 38% of these children show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Experiencing violence is linked to doing worse in school, missing more days of school, and having a higher chance of using drugs and feeling depressed.

Also Read: The Most Dangerous And Worst Neighborhoods In Jersey City, NJ for 2024

What are the proposed solutions?

Monterey County has a problem with homicides, and there is no easy solution. However, there are different initiatives in place to try to prevent and reduce violence. The Community Alliance for Safety and Peace (CASP) is a group of local organizations that work together to tackle the main reasons for violence and encourage better options for young people.

CASP has used different strategies to address violence. One of these strategies is called the Ceasefire approach, which focuses on helping gang members by offering social services and incentives to discourage violence. Another strategy is the Community Safety Division, which reaches out to and intervenes with young people and families who are at risk. Lastly, CASP has the Youth Violence Prevention Task Force, which coordinates efforts between different agencies to prevent youth violence.

The Baktun 12 project is another initiative led by a nonprofit organization. It uses art and culture to empower and engage the young people of Salinas. Baktun 12 wants to provide a safe and creative place for young people to express themselves, learn new skills, and connect with different cultures. They do this through workshops, classes, and events in different art forms. The project also supports social justice and peace in the community.

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