DENVER — On average, about 700 people under the age of 25 are directly affected by gun violence each year in Denver, according to a new report from health and safety officials in the city.
Denver Public Health released the 12-page report, titled “How Gun Violence Affects Youth in Denver: The Problem and Opportunities for Action” on Tuesday morning.
The report analyzed data from Colorado Violent Death Reporting System, the Colorado Hospital Association and the Denver Police Department. It examined the effect of gun violence on youths, which it defined as people under the age of 25.
The study found, among other data:
· 74 Denver youth died of gun-related deaths between 2012 and 2017. Of these, 27 were suicides
· For every young person in Denver killed by gun violence, about seven are injured and required medical attention
· Denver youth were hospitalized 175 times in connection to gun-related injuries between 2012 and 2018
· Between 2014 and 2018, 3,080 young people were victims of crimes involving guns
The effects of gun violence hits some Denver communities more than others. The below map shows the higher concentrations of crimes involving guns where a youth or youths were victimized.
To address this, the city must examine what is happening in the affected neighborhoods and the factors that shape that community, the report said. People who live in the neighborhoods with high levels of concentrated disadvantages are more likely to see or experience violence than those who lived in areas without those concentrated disadvantage.
Across the board, the people injured or killed by gun violence aren’t the only ones affected by the crime — the impacts spread out to friends, family and the rest of the community. Other scientific studies have looked at how the indirect effects of gun violence can leave parents, siblings, relatives, friends and others with emotional trauma, which can affect their health and well-being.
Michael Filmore, 17, is a senior at East High School and youth adviser at Denver Public Health. He lost his brother to gun violence in the fall of 2018 and contributed to this report.
“Numbers are just numbers to you until someone you love is killed,” he said.
Even if you haven’t lost a loved one like he has, you’re likely still impact by gun violence, he said.
“We need to stop seeing urban gun violence as a challenge for black and brown communities, and see it as a public health crisis affecting all of us,” he said. “We need to see the hundreds of lives lost or altered by a preventable problem.”
Dr. Bill Burman, executive director of Denver Public Health, said these deaths and injuries are preventable.
“Through a focused public health approach, we can significantly reduce harm,” he said.
Public health experts said in the report there are two ways to do this. One is to evaluate what is causing gun violence and apply evidence-based approaches while evaluating the small changes. The second is to reduce the shared risk factors that lead to adverse health outcomes, which would acknowledge and improve housing, educational opportunities, community development, justice, immigration and more.
In addition to addressing underlying risk factors for gun violence, there are other factors that can protect Denver’s young people from these incidents, according to the report. Those can include a connection with a caring parent, positive relationships with peers who participate in healthy activities, family support and community connectedness, the report found. These factors can also lessen the chance youths will engage in other types of violence, like bullying and relationship violence.
Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said gun violence is plaguing Colorado cities, the nation and the soul of our society.
“It’s even more devastating to our communities and families when it impacts our children and youth,” he said. “The city is committed to promoting the policies and deploying the resources necessary to keep our young people safe.”
Denver Public Health presented the report in collaboration with the following groups:
· Colorado Faith Communities United to End Gun Violence
· Denver Department of Public Health and Environment
· Denver Department of Public Safety
· Denver Health At-Risk Intervention and Mentoring Program
· Denver Health Department of Emergency Medicine
· Denver Health Level I Adult and Level II Pediatric Trauma Center
· Project PAVE
You can read the full report here.