Gun violence targeting youth is on the rise in Philadelphia, with city data showing the number of shooting and homicide victims under 18 so far this year more than doubling since 2015. The dramatic uptick in youth victims of gun violence was put sharply into focus last week, when a 14-year-old was killed, and four others wounded in a shooting after a football scrimmage at Roxborough High School, Axios reports. Police on Tuesday announced murder charges against a 16-year-old in the shooting. A warrant is out for his arrest. The number of youth gun victims in 2022 alone already equals the combined total from 2015 and 2016.
In 2021, the year the city set a record for overall homicides, the number of juvenile homicide victims was more than three times that of youth under18 killed in 2015. Experts and activists said anecdotally that perpetrators of violent crime are getting younger and targeting people their age. Kenneth Adams, a criminal justice professor at the University of Central Florida, said juvenile "perpetrators and victims tend to interchange roles" in a cycle of disputes that sometimes stem from petty schoolyard squabbles. The proliferation of guns, drug-turf disputes and the erosion of family units could be contributing factors to why Philly is seeing a spike in youth violence, Adams said. "We have found that juveniles, probably because of their age and lack of maturity, they're not very good at handling conflict," he said. "They turn to the gun."