Statement of purpose To describe rates and characteristics of criminal arrests in a sample of drug-using, violently injured youth during the 36 months surrounding an emergency department (ED) visit.
Methods/approach Participants (ages 14–24) screening positive for past six-month drug use and presenting for an assault (AIG) or as part of a proportionally sampled comparison group (CG) of non-assaulted youth were enrolled in a 2 year longitudinal study (n=599). Computerised surveys were administered at baseline, and at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. Objective arrest data were obtained from law enforcement sources for those >18. Arrest rates were characterised with survival analysis; baseline characteristics predictive of arrest were determined using multivariate Poisson regression.
Results The sample was 59% male and 65% African-American, with a mean age of 20. AIG participants had a 30% greater risk of arrest than the CG (47.2% vs. 36.3%, p<0.05), with 70% of arrests occurring during the 24 month follow-up. The AIG had a higher mean number of arrests (2.23 vs. 1.72, p<0.01). Overall, 40.9% of arrests involved a violent/weapon related crime, 27.9% were property crimes, and 23.2% were related to alcohol or drugs. Where cases resulted in a criminal charge, 50.3% involved fines or restitution, 36.9% involved jail or prison time, and 29.4% involved probation. Regression identified that age (RR=1.04), male sex (RR=1.90), African-American race (RR=1.25), diagnosis of drug use disorder (RR=1.25), and assault-related injury (RR=1.31) increased the risk for criminal arrest. Extra-curricular school and community involvement were found to be protective (RR=0.78).
Conclusions Drug-using youth with assault injuries who seek emergency care have high rates of subsequent criminal arrest.
Significance and Contributions to Injury and Violence Prevention Science The emergency visit for assault injury may be an opportunity to engage youth in services and Interventions that decrease subsequent risk for criminal justice involvement and its negative sequelae.