Homicide Total Would Be Higher Without Medical Advances

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Criminal homicide rates have dropped precipitously in Cumberland County, Pa., since 1995, but could life-saving advances in trauma care be masking an underlying violent crime problem?, asks The Sentinel in Carlisle, Pa. Sociologist Anthony Harris of the University of Massachusetts Amherst suspects that advances in trauma care since the 1960s have helped suppress the homicide rate. He theorizes that the U.S. would experience a more than three-fold increase in homicides each year without advances in trauma care. Those advances have ranged from the use of MedEvac helicopters to transport patients, to more modern advances like blood-clotting gauze, and better understanding of how to deal with traumatic blood loss, says Dr. Anupam Jena, professor at Harvard Medical School who believes that advances in trauma care were masking an ever growing problem with gun violence.

Analyzing the lethality of aggravated assaults, the Sentinel reviewed roughly 40,000 criminal records in Cumberland County dating back to 1995. If assaults had remained as lethal as they were in 1995, the annual homicide total would have more than doubled over the last two decades, going from just 48 to 100. Homicides and murders grab the headlines, but Harris said focusing on them too much — focusing on one data point — and not dealing with the underlying crime can lead to bigger problems. “Death is dramatic,” he said. “It’s melodramatic. It takes your eyes away from the real problems.”


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