California is a state with diverse landscapes, cultures, and people. It is also a state with a high level of crime, especially violent crime. According to the FBI, California had the highest number of murders in the nation in 2023, with 2,133 victims. But which county in California has the most murders per capita? And which city in that county is the most dangerous? You might be surprised by the answer.
Monterey County: The Youth Homicide Capital of California
Monterey County is a scenic coastal county in central California, known for its agricultural products, historic sites, and natural beauty. It is also the county with the highest homicide rate among 10- to 24-year-olds in California, according to the Violence Policy Center (VPC).
The VPC has ranked Monterey County the youth homicide capital of California for four out of the past five years, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, and the California Department of Public Health. The county has also taken the top spot in annual gang-related youth homicides every year since 2011, when the report was first published.
The VPC report found that Monterey County had a youth homicide rate of 23.32 per 100,000 people in 2023, more than double the state average of 10.06. The county also had the highest rate of firearm-related youth homicides, with 20.97 per 100,000, compared to the state average of 7.88. The majority of the victims were male (90 percent), Hispanic (83 percent), and killed by a handgun (76 percent).
Salinas: The Most Violent City in Monterey County
Salinas is the county seat and the largest city in Monterey County, with a population of about 157,000. It is also the most violent city in the county, and one of the most violent in the state. Salinas had a total gun homicide rate of 19.7 shooting deaths per 100,000 people in 2023, more than seven times higher than the national rate. It was also slightly higher than the rate in Oakland, which, according to FBI statistics, is the third most violent big city in America.
Salinas endured its highest number of gun homicides in history in 2023, with 103 shooting victims, 31 of whom were killed. Almost half of the victims were 24 years old or younger. The Salinas Police Department believes that most of the shootings are gang-related, and that there is an “unlimited supply of firearms” circulating in the city.
Salinas has a long history of gang violence, dating back to the 1960s, when the Norteño and Sureño gangs emerged from the Mexican-American community. The gangs have been locked in a deadly turf war ever since, fueled by poverty, drugs, and racial tensions.
Monterey County is the youth homicide capital of California, and Salinas is the most violent city in the county. The county and the city have been plagued by gang violence for decades, resulting in hundreds of young lives lost. The authorities have tried various strategies to combat the problem, such as increasing police presence, implementing community programs, and offering rewards for information. However, the violence persists, and the residents live in fear. The question remains: how can Monterey County and Salinas break the cycle of violence and create a safer environment for their youth?