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More on Emergency Medicine and Murder Statistics

A subscription is required to read the study I talked about on Friday.  It is titled “Murder and Medicine, The Lethality of Criminal Assault, 1960 – 1999.”  Here is the abstract:

Despite the proliferation of increasingly dangerous weapons and the very large increase in rates of serious criminal assault, since 1960, the lethality of such assault in the United States has dropped dramatically. This paradox has barely been studied and needs to be examined using national time-series data. Starting from the basic view that homicides are aggravated assaults with the outcome of the victim’s death, we assembled evidence from national data sources to show that the principal explanation of the downward trend in lethality involves parallel developments in medical technology and related medical support services that have suppressed the homicide rate compared to what it would be had such progress not been made. We argue that research into the causes and deterability of homicide would benefit from a “lethality perspective” that focuses on serious assaults, only a small proportion of which end in death.

Homicide Studies, Vol. 6, No. 2, 128-166 (2002)
DOI: 10.1177/108876790200600203

Here is a brief article describing the study — one that does not require a subscription.  Note:

In the research [Dr. Anthony Harris] and a team from Massachusetts University and Harvard Medical School found that technological developments had helped to significantly depress today’s murder rates, converting homicides into aggravated assaults.
“Without this technology, we estimate there would be no less than 50,000 and as many as 115,000 homicides annually instead of an actual 15,000 to 20,000,” they say in a report of the study in the journal Homicide Studies (2002;6:128-66).
Another way of looking at this is that 50,000 to 115,000 attempted murders are defined down to aggravated assault each year.  And we know how fluid sentencing may be for aggravated assault.  In Atlanta, a young man who fired a gun outside a crowded club, striking his target three times, was sentenced earlier this year by Judge Marvin Arrington to “staying in school.”  Thus are crime stats and prison costs kept in check — on the backs of the rest of us.
We still pay for all of those lifesaving medical interventions, however, even if such costs do not show up in Pew Center studies advocating for “community sentencing” and other alternatives to incarceration — alternatives like telling a gun criminal to “stay in school” instead of sending him to prison.

One Response to More on Emergency Medicine and Murder Statistics

  1. JP says:

    Thanks for this Tina. There’s a lot of economics in this too. It’s plenty costly to prevent such deaths. That’s probably 10’s (?) of billions of dollars that could & should be better allocated elsewhere. In the health care system or in the judicial systems. But it’s a decent start to be able to suggest some of the dimensions here. Check NBER.org too.

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