12-17-2002, 04:51 PM #1
Food for Thought: We'd send you to the chair, but the EMTs saved the life...
Just interesting to think & mull over:
December 15, 2002
Ambulance-Homicide Theory, The
By RYAN LIZZA
or all the theoretical talk of ''broken windows'' and ''zero tolerance'' policing that has dominated the public discourse on crime during the past decade, research published this year suggests that the most significant factor in keeping the homicide rate down is something much more practical: faster ambulances and better care in the emergency room. That, in any case, is the intellectual hand grenade that Anthony Harris, director of the Criminal Justice Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has thrown into the polarized debate over crime prevention.
Harris stumbled upon this simple idea after years of trying to figure out why the aggravated-assault rate skyrocketed by several hundred percent over the past four decades, while the murder rate has remained flat, never increasing or decreasing by more than 50 percent. He had his breakthrough a couple of years ago, while watching an emergency-room reality TV show that featured the story of a man stabbed in the head with a huge knife. Despite horrendous injuries, E.R. doctors saved the man's life. Instead of a homicide, the patient became an aggravated-assault victim, and Harris realized he had the explanation he had been looking for. ''It was an epiphany,'' he says.
In ''Murder and Medicine,'' a paper published in May in the journal Homicide Studies, Harris and three other researchers determined that the murder rate is being artificially suppressed because thousands of potential homicide victims each year are now receiving swift medical attention and surviving. Americans, in other words, aren't any less murderous -- it's just getting harder for us to kill one another. Our modern 911 dispatchers, E.M.S. technicians, trauma-care units and emergency-room surgeons have been saving patients who were on the cusp of becoming murder statistics and moving them into the aggravated-assault column.
Between 1960 and 1999, the proportion of criminal assaults ending in death -- what Harris calls ''the lethality rate'' -- dropped by 70 percent. (The steepest decline came in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, when advances in battlefield surgery led to innovations in civilian emergency care.) In fact, Harris estimates that there would be 30,000 to 50,000 additional murders in the U.S. each year -- doubling or tripling the current rate -- without our current levels of emergency-care technology.
If he's right, the focus by criminologists on the stable or declining murder rate is actually masking a radical increase of violence in America, a fact that has unexpected consequences. For example, communities without access to the most advanced emergency medical services may have higher homicide rates. ''How much is the black-offender rate inflated?'' Harris asks. And there are strange implications for the criminal-justice system. An attempted murderer carrying out his crime in an area with poor emergency services is more likely to succeed than one operating near a high-tech trauma center. The former may be executed, while the latter spends just a few years in prison, their punishments determined not by any disparity in lethal intent, but by the unequal levels of local medical care.
12-17-2002, 05:01 PM #2
I wonder if anyone tracks debilitating injuries secondary to criminal assaults? It would be interesting to see if there is a correlation to the murder/assault rates.Steve Gallagher
"I don't apologize for anything. When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes
12-17-2002, 05:10 PM #3
An attempted murderer carrying out his crime in an area with poor emergency services is more likely to succeed than one operating near a high-tech trauma center. The former may be executed, while the latter spends just a few years in prison, their punishments determined not by any disparity in lethal intent, but by the unequal levels of local medical care.
- Join Date
- Jul 2001
- Silver City, Oklahoma USA
So--we have less murders and more assaults because medical care is better--and conviction rates are higher and more accurate because of forensics (my opinion)---sounds like a winner to me!Bryan Beall
Silver City, Oklahoma USA
12-17-2002, 05:23 PM #4
Kinda blows that LA study out of the water. You know, the one where they say that a person is more likely to survive if they were driven the ER in a personal auto rather than an EMS vehicle..
Very good news..
12-18-2002, 09:48 AM #5
It throws an interesting thought into criminal discussion, too.
If I shoot somebody outside an ER and they save him, I am charged with attempted murder. If I shoot him in BFE and he dies, I am charged with murder. I did THE SAME THING in both cases, both times with the intent to kill him. Yet because I failed in the one case, society says my crime isn't as bad.
It's not a horrible stretch to extrapolate this to drunk driving. If I hit somebody while I'm DUI and kill them, I am charged with murder. If I drive drunk and get stopped a quarter mile before I would have crossed the center line and killed somebody, I am charged only with DUI. Yet I have really done the same thing, I was just lucky enough to get caught.
I'm not saying that just any DUI or assault should be charged as a murder. But it is something to think about.“I am more than just a serious basketball fan. I am a life-long addict. I was addicted from birth, in fact, because I was born in Kentucky.”
― Hunter S. Thompson
12-18-2002, 10:19 AM #6Originally posted by EastKyFF
I'm not saying that just any DUI or assault should be charged as a murder. But it is something to think about.
I apologize for, even if only for a split second, thinking that you were even capable of such a comment.
As for the topic ... wouldn't the Violent Crime Rate be a catch all for this concept? Yet ...
Violent crime rate lowest in more than 20 years.
Violent crime rates have declined since 1994, reaching the lowest level ever recorded in 2001.
U.S. Violent-Crime Rate Hits Record Low
Violent crime rate in America continues steep decline
I'm confused ...
12-18-2002, 11:16 AM #7
- Join Date
- Nov 2001
- Clermont County, Ohio
Re: Food for Thought: We'd send you to the chair, but the EMTs saved the life...
For example, communities without access to the most advanced emergency medical services may have higher homicide rates. ''How much is the black-offender rate inflated?'' Harris asks. And there are strange implications for the criminal-justice system. An attempted murderer carrying out his crime in an area with poor emergency services is more likely to succeed than one operating near a high-tech trauma center. The former may be executed, while the latter spends just a few years in prison, their punishments determined not by any disparity in lethal intent, but by the unequal levels of local medical care.
One potential inconsistency with this point of view is that homicide rates tend to be highest in urban areas. Those areas are most likely to have career FD and EMS systems who can put responders, usually medics, on scene in a few minutes. Those same urban areas are most likely to have level 1 trauma centers. For example, the city of Cincinnati has had just over 60 murders this year while the rest of the county (which has 2-3X the population of the city) has had less than 5. Cincy FD will put an engine co on scene in 2-4 minutes, often a medic engine co. A medic ambulance will usually be on scene within the next 5 minutes. Transport to a level 1 trauma center is a 5-7 minute drive.
His conclusions are far more likely to apply to to rural areas than to urban areas. At least in SW Ohio, the black population is concentrated in urban rather than rural areas. So, in my area, the effect of his assertions would be to reduce rather than increase the "lethality" rate of urban violence, including that done by black offenders.Proud to be honored with IACOJ membership. Blessed by TWO meals cooked by Cheffie - a true culinary goddess. Expressing my own views, not my organization's.
12-18-2002, 11:40 AM #8
In my opinion statisics are pretty well worthless as the side that initiates the statistical analysis will always set the criteria in a way that will garuntee the result they want. For instance a few years ago our local mayor released statistics and claimed that Garbage collecting was in fact more dangerous then firefighting. He was statistically correct, in the limited paramaters that he chose to look at because of a large number of garbage collectors making claims to Workers Compensation for bad backs. My point is politicians are not above shaping the facts to read whatever they want it to read, and frequently do.
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