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Study: Homicide Rate Among Younsters Soared Between 1980 and 1988

June 3, 1992

DETROIT (AP) _ The homicide rate among Detroit youngsters soared between 1980 and 1988, suggesting the same problem in other urban areas, says an author of a new study.

The study in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association said death rates among children overall in Detroit went up 50 percent in that period and the rate by homicide went up 252 percent.

″I strongly suspect it’s a national trend,″ said study co-author Dr. Leland Ropp, an emergency room doctor at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. ″Preliminary data shows it’s happening in Chicago, Boston. It’s happening in Washington, D.C. It could be happening in LA.″

In 1980, 18 percent of children 1 to 18 years old who died in Detroit were slain, the study said. By 1988, the number was 41 percent, said the study’s authors, who also included Drs. Paul Visintainer and David Treloar and researcher Jane Uman of Henry Ford Hospital.

The doctors studied death certificates filed with the Michigan Department of Public Health.

The findings aren’t surprising, said Clementine Barfield, who founded Save Our Sons and Daughters after her son’s gunshot slaying in 1986 in Detroit.

″I’m sick of people counting death certificates,″ she said. ″I wish they would just get more involved at the human level ... and try to offer some alternatives.″

The child mortality rate in Detroit was 49 per 100,000 population in 1980, the study said. By 1988, it was 73 per 100,000. By contrast, the child mortality rate in suburban Wayne County outside Detroit was 32.9 per 100,000 in 1980 and 27.9 per 100,000 in 1988.

Child death rates by means other than homicide increased 11 percent in the period in Detroit, the study said.

The National Center for Health Statistics showed child death rates nationally dropping by 37 percent from 1970 through 1985, the study said.

Homicide was the leading cause of death among black Detroit males between 5 and 18 years old in 1988, the doctors said. They said they found ″an overwhelming preponderance of gun involvement″ in the deaths of 15-to 18- year-old black males in Detroit.

More than 84 percent of Detroit’s 291,000 children are black, according to the study.

″Homicide is the leading cause of death among African American males of all ages, but that’s not news. That’s always been the case,″ Barfield said. ″We must deal with the issues of racism and poverty.″

The researchers called it an epidemic.

″Clearly, in our urban population, with homicide as the leading or second- leading cause of death in all age groups of black children, we have an epidemic that requires a concerted public health approach,″ they said.

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