Summer Months, Crime Statistics, Emergency Medicine, and Aggravated Assault

Summer is here, and as blogger Second City Cop observed, Chicago is already experiencing blood shortages due to violent crimes:

Doctors [at Chicago’s Stroger Hospital] say the facility’s supply of O-negative blood is dwindling. . .

“Tonight we may be in a very tough situation,” Dr. Dennis said. “Because we’re that short on O-negative blood.” . . .

Dr. Dennis says the reason for the shortage is the high numbers of victims of shootings and other violent crimes who come to Stroger Hospital for life-saving treatment.

“We see probably an average of between 10 and 15 people who get shot or stabbed every night,” Dr. Dennis said.

And this bring up an interesting point about crime statistics.  Much statistical analysis of crime relies on the murder rate, for it is assumed that murders are recorded consistently and accurately, moreso than any other type of crime.  However, when you compare murder rates across the past fifty years (usually this is done to make the case that peoples’ fears about crime are unfounded, because the murder rate is quite stable), you need to consider advances in emergency medicine today compared to ten, thirty, or fifty years ago.

Contemporary emergency and post-emergency care saves the lives of many crime victims who would have died in 1960, or even 1980, from identical injuries.  In other words, the murder rate would be significantly higher today if we were still using 1960’s (or 80’s)-era medicine to treat all the shooting and stabbing victims who roll into our emergency rooms.  This must be taken into account when making arguments about the prevalence of crime.

How much higher would the murder rate be if emergency medical care had not improved dramatically?  You can’t look to the “attempted murder” rate for answers because attempted murder is not a criminal charge that gets used very often (almost never in some states).  It is best to look at rates for aggravated assault if you want the most accurate measure of changes in violent crime between, say, 1960 and 2007.

Here is the murder rate for those two years:

  • 1960 murder rate:  5.1 (per 100,000 inhabitants, for all numbers)
  • 2007 murder rate:  5.6

Here is the aggravated assault rate:

  • 1960 aggravated assault rate:  86.1
  • 2007 aggravated assault rate:  283.8

So the murder rate rose 9.8% between 1960 and 2007.

But the aggravated assault rate rose 229% over the same time.


2 thoughts on “Summer Months, Crime Statistics, Emergency Medicine, and Aggravated Assault”

  1. Yeah, I had read that in the past, specifically showing Grady hospital’s importance to Atlanta, in some suprising ways. Known for its trauma care, it was speculated that ATL’s “violent crime” rate was amongst the worst in the nation, of not for Grady.

  2. I wondered why murder rates have been basically flat but the ‘feeling’ is that the victim is more likely to be hurt in a robbery. Interesting hypothesis, health care advances have saved the life of more would-be murder victims. This is even with the expanding practice of charging the surviving attacker with murder even if it was the intended victim who kills his partner.


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