Biases and Realities
On Second Anniversary of Columbine, School Crime and Youth Crime Continue to Decline
On the second anniversary of the shooting at Columbine high school, school-associated violent deaths and youth crime continue to fall, according to the Justice Policy Institute. School-associated violent deaths have dropped by 72% since 1992, from 55, to 16. By comparison, 16 children are killed by gunfire every two days in America, and 16 children die at the hands of their parents or guardians every three days in America.
Youth homicides arrests declined by 68% between 1993 and 1999, from about 3,800 to 1,200, and are at their lowest rate since 1966. The youth violent crime rate of 339 per 100,000 is the lowest since 1988.
"As we mourn the Columbine anniversary," said Justice Policy Institute President Vincent Schiraldi, "we should be encouraged by the knowledge that our young people are better behaved than their parents' generation, and that our schools are among the safest places for our kids to be."
Despite the fact that schools are safe and becoming safer, Americans fear that school violence is on the rise. In 1999, when there was approximately a one in 2 million chance of a child dying a violent death in a school, 71% of respondents to a Wall Street Journal Poll thought it was very likely or likely that a school shooting could happen in their community. According to polling by USA Today in 1998 and following the Columbine shooting in 1999, respondents were 49% more likely to report being fearful of schools in 1999 than in 1998 even though the chance of being killed in a school declined by 40% between 1998 and 1999. In the last school year (1999/2000), there was a 1 in 3 million chance of your child being violently killed in a school.
New research shows that the mediašs coverage of school shootings and youth crime may be driving the public's fears. Three quarters (76%) of the public say they form their opinions about crime from what they see or read in the news, more than three times the number who say that they get their primary information on crime from personal experience (22%).
A study found that the news media presents a distorted image of youth, and especially youth of color, in crime coverage. The report, Off Balance: Youth, Race and Crime in the News (http://www.buildingblocksforyouth.org), found that the news media over-reports crime generally, unduly connects youth to violence, and over reports people of color as criminals while underreporting victims of color.
"The data remind us that our young people are neither schoolhouse assassins nor the kids on the other side of the yellow tape, weeping over the deaths of their classmates," said Schiraldi. "Our kids are the ones playing soccer, going to dances and doing the other normal things kids do. They don't need us to turn their schools into prisons, they need our support to live healthy, happy lives."
The Justice Policy Institute is a project of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Visit the JPI web site at http://www.cjcj.org/jpi
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