Indiana saw a sharp increase in homicides among children and teenagers in 2013, and homicide was the leading cause of death for blacks ages 15 to 24, according to a report released Monday by a group that tracks such statistics.
The Indiana Youth Institute, a nonprofit that works to improve child development, says homicide deaths for those younger than 20 jumped from 35 in 2012 to 65 in 2013, which was the most recent year for which data was available. Of those 65 homicides, about 73 percent occurred in Marion, Lake and Allen counties, which are the state's most populous, the report says.
"That's an alarming statistic," said Glenn Augustine, the institute's interim CEO and president. "Any time we see juveniles involved in violent crime, that's an alarming statistic."
Homicide was the top cause of death among blacks ages 15 to 24, with 105. Accidents were next, with 32, followed by suicide, with 10, and death by a law enforcement officer, with four. Among whites and Hispanics in that age group, accidents were the leading cause of death, followed by suicide and homicide.
The report says the only other time since 2000 that death by law enforcement personnel has been a top-five cause of death for any race or gender category was in 2003, when there were five such deaths. Six people ages 15 to 24 died at the hands of law enforcement officers in Indiana in 2013, making it the eighth-leading cause of death among those in that age range.
Augustine said the group's annual "Kids Count in Indiana Data Book" shows Indiana improving in some areas, but not others.
"So we're kind of holding at status quo in many ways for our children. You look at how Indiana ranks nationally in many of these categories, we tend to fall near the middle in a lot of these categories in many ways."
Among the areas where Indiana saw improvements were teen pregnancy rates, with pregnancies for girls ages 15 to 17 dropping to their lowest rate, at 13.6 per 1,000. And Indiana had more nationally accredited child-care centers per capita than the national average.
Another problem area for Indiana was children's living conditions, with the report showing that 13.4 percent of Indiana children were living with adults who had drug and alcohol problems, compared to the national rate of 10.7 percent.
"A child being 'cared' for by someone using drugs is probably not getting the level of care they need," Augustine said. "They may be abandoned for significant stretches of time and feel a sense of abandonment or anxiety."
Augustine said the point of the data book is to help people see what areas need to be addressed.
"Sometimes it can be a local issue, when somebody is looking to develop a program or looking to secure funding for an issue and they are trying to quantify the problem. That data book can do that," he said.