Alameda County ranked fourth among 35 California counties in the number of young homicide victims in 2011, according to data from the state Department of Justice.
While still troubling -- there were only five fewer homicides in 2011 than the year before -- the standing marked an improvement over 2009 and 2010, when the county ranked second, according to the Violence Policy Center.
The Washington, D.C.-based violence-prevention organization analyzed data provided by the California Justice Department to produce the report, "Lost Youth: A County-by-County Analysis of 2011 California Homicide Victims Ages 10 to 24," released Wednesday.
The total number of victims among the 35 counties studied was 631.
The study, funded by The California Wellness Foundation, included only counties with a population of at least 25,000 10-to-24-year olds.
Contra Costa County ranked fifth with 31 youths murdered in 2011, followed by Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
One of the most troubling trends revealed by the analysis was the role played by firearms in the death of children and young adults, the report's co-author, Josh Sugarmann, said.
Of the 625 homicides in which the murder weapon could be identified, 83 percent of victims died by gunfire. Of these, 73 percent were killed with handguns.
Also disturbing was the homicide rate among Latino and African-American youth, Sugarmann said. African-American, Latino and Asian youth were killed at higher rates than whites, even though they made up a smaller percentage of their age group in California.
On the positive side, Sugarmann said, the overall rate of youth homicides was down for the third year, from 803 in 2009 to 631 in 2011. He attributed the decrease to programs that "offer real promise."
The report highlighted three such violence-prevention programs, including YouthAlive! in Oakland.
"We're getting to a lot of people, but not everyone," YouthAlive Executive Director Anne Marks said.
Other findings included in the report:
The analysis was limited by the degree of detail in the information submitted to the state by local law enforcement agencies. And the ranking can be misleading because it depends on murder rates in other counties and not homicides alone.
Sugarmann said the goal was to raise questions and highlight youth violence reduction programs.
For example, in Contra Costa County the youth homicide ranking went from 40 in 2009 to 27 in 2010 to 31 in 2011. But the number varied only very slightly: 4, 6, and 5 in each of the respective years.
1) San Joaquin County, 21.29 per 100,000
2) San Francisco County, 18.04
3) Monterey County, 16.96
4) Alameda County, 16.82
5) Contra Costa County, 14.74
6) Solano County, 13.71
7) Tulare County, 13.43
8) Stanislaus County, 9.92
9) Los Angeles County, 9.55
10) Santa Cruz County, 9.40
The report is available at www.vpc.org