Injury research explains conflicting violence trends
- Violence Research Group, Department of Oral Surgery, Medicine and Pathology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
- Correspondence to: Professor J P Shepherd Violence Research Group, Department of Oral Surgery, Medicine and Pathology, Cardiff University, Hearth Park, Cardiff CF14 4XY, UK;
- Accepted 14 September 2005
Police records should not be used to measure violence
This commentary explains conflicting trends in violence over the past decade as derived from the two official sources of information: household crime surveys designed to identify citizens’ experience of crime and police data. Police records, rather than representing a reliable measure of trends in violence, are a product of police activity—increasingly prompted by better surveillance and targeting, increased numbers of police, and changes in recording practices. Injury data from emergency departments are an objective measure of harm and should be used to target local violence prevention resources.
TRENDS IN VIOLENCE
Measuring interpersonal violence is an important objective: there is keen interest in trends among policy makers; a broad range of criminal justice, community safety, and victim organizations; the media; and among the public. However, the two traditional and high profile violent crime measures—annual crime surveys and police data—have shown conflicting trends.1,2 According to the British Crime Survey (BCS), for example, violence in England and Wales fell by 36% from a peak in 1995 to 2004.1 In contrast, violent offences recorded by the police in England and Wales almost doubled from 1996 to 2004.2 Similarly in the US, as convictions for violent offences have increased, reflecting greater police activity, so violence rates have fallen.3 Public health interest in violence is reflected in national electronic injury surveillance systems which have been developed, for example in Australia (Basic Routine Injury Surveillance System), Canada (Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Programme (CHIRPP)), and the US, but these systems are not designed to complement police and national crime survey violent crime statistics or to contribute to prevention.4–7 This is because it has not been recognized until recently that a principal contribution of health services to violence prevention is information about those many—even …