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Surge In Teenage Killings Began During COVID-19 Pandemic

When New York City police in January announced arrests in the killing of a 17-year-old in Coney Island, none of the three people charged was old enough to drive: A 13-year-old had stabbed Nyheem Wright. The killer's friends, ages 14 and 15, were charged with aiding him. The fight started over a girl after school, prosecutors said. Now, the boys, who turned themselves in, face possible sentences ranging from nine years in prison to life behind bars. From 2018 through 2022, teenagers were arrested and charged with murder in the city at a rate that grew twice as fast as that of adults. Forty-five children ranging from 13 to 17 were arrested and charged with murder last year, nearly double the number in 2018, the New York Times reports. Violence breaks out more quickly and more often now than it did before the pandemic, law enforcement and education officials say. Young people “came out of quarantine with scores to settle,” said Patrice O’Shaughnessy of the Bronx district attorney's office, which charged 26 adolescents with murder last year.

The proliferation of guns and the fallout of the pandemic’s disruption to schools, including higher numbers of students missing school and falling behind academically, added factors that have troubled children. Students were absent from schools, and with that their stabilizing influence, more often in poor communities, where gun violence was already higher and where social services, housing, and access to amenities are often lacking. During the 18 months that New York City schools were closed because of the pandemic, more people in Black and Latino communities died, and Black children were more likely to lose a caregiver. All the teenagers charged with murder in New York City last year were Black or Hispanic. Clinical psychologist Joseph Allen of the University of Virginia said the pandemic and its attendant catastrophes were a “short circuit” for adolescents, at a time when they are learning how to manage conflicts. A recent study of four major U.S. cities found that the rate at which children were victims of gun violence had nearly doubled throughout the pandemic. Black children were the main victims, said Jonathan Jay, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health and the report’s lead author. “Black children’s rates of gun victimization in these cities was 100 times the rate of white children during the pandemic, which was much more than we have ever seen before or would have expected to see,” Jay sai


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