Homicide rates for children and young adults reached a 30-year low in 2010, according to a report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report, released on Thursday, found that although the downward trend was consistent with all racial and ethnic groups from ages 10 to 24, the decrease in youth homicide has slowed in recent years and remains a leading cause of death for that age group.
Using its own injury reporting data, the CDC investigated trends in youth homicide from 1981 to 2010. There was a sharp increase – 83 percent – from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. A peak of nearly 16 deaths per 100,000 in 1993 was followed by a decline of 41 percent from 1994 to 1999.
"We are encouraged to see a decline in the homicide rate among our youth but unfortunately, homicide continues to rank in the top three leading causes of death for our young people," said Linda Degutis, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in a released statement.
Though rates continued to decline from 2000 to 2010, the drop was much slower, decreasing about 1 percent each year. By 2010, the overall homicide rate had reached a 30-year low of 7.5 deaths per 100,000.
But the report also found that the decrease in recent years has been slower for groups at high risk for homicide – including males and non-Hispanic black youth – and for firearm homicides.
"Our youth represent our future and one homicide is one too many," Degutis said in the statement. "Comprehensive approaches that include evidence-based prevention strategies are essential to eliminate homicide as a leading cause of death of young people."
Over the 30-year period examined, the majority of all homicides (80 percent) came from firearms, the average rate of which was nearly four times the rate of other types of homicide.
"These findings indicate the need for increased use of youth violence prevention strategies, especially approaches that engage high-risk youth," the report says.
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics also linked assault injuries among young people to gun ownership. Nearly a quarter of all young people who are treated in emergency rooms for assault injuries owns a gun, the study found.
The CDC report says that homicide rates for this age group are similar to trends in other violent crimes.
"Previous research has linked the rise and subsequent decline in homicide and violent crime in this population to changes in drug use and drug-related crime, shifting community demographics, community-based and problem-oriented policing ... and varying economic conditions," the report says.
The organization also recommends implementing more prevention programs, like school-based programs and business improvement districts to address socioeconomic factors, that could help "disrupt the developmental pathways to serious violence" among young people.
"Although law enforcement responses to violence and focused attention on high crime areas and perpetrators help to reduce the continuation of violence, they do not stop violence from happening in the first place," the report says.