Fascinating factoid

New York murders fell dramatically when hospitals were compelled to admit critical cases irrespective of insurance cover, cutting the lag before treatment and thus the chance of survival by a crucial 20 to 23 minutes.

And whether or not it\’s an entirely true one is another matter.

Yet there is a truth in it: some part of the fall in murder rates is indeed as a result of medical treatment getting better.

People who would have died in previous decades, and thus been murder victims, now survive and are thus not.

All of which leads to an interesting question.

If we look specifically at cases still considered homicide at the end of the period (as the House of Commons Library did in 1999), then the change in the murder rate between 1967 (the earliest year for which data is available) and 1997 is more modest. In 1967 this rate stood at 7.3, and reached a peak of 12.8 in 1995, falling slightly to 12.4 in 1997. In this analysis therefore, the homicide rate did not quite double.

Given that, if the attempted murder rate had stayed static over this time period, we would have expected the murder rate to have fallen, what in buggery has been happening in the UK to the attempted murder rate?

19 comments on “Fascinating factoid

  1. I thought no-one in the US was denied emergency medical cover?

    On the UK have the advances perhaps been post-97, and the murder rate has dropped since then?

  2. I heard a lecture last year (but can’t remember who, some US military guy), who said that murder rates a re a useless indication of violent intent in society. Medical trauma care is now soo good that people regularly survive horrendous shootings, stabbings and beatings.

    If you want to see the real ‘murder’ rates you have to look at assault statistics, and see who would have died, even as recently as the 60’s.

    Incidentally, the same effect masks true death casualty rates in modern wars. The evac and trauma protocols in Iraq/Afghan wars mask what would have been much worse fatalities in Vietnam era.

  3. More the serious assault rate than the attempted murder rate. Most murders aren’t the result of attempted murder, but rather the attempt to commit GBH with intent.

    Nonetheless, this is an important factor. See also: low western fatality levels in recent wars.

  4. Life expectancy has increased since doctors abandoned bloodletting.

    Or, more to the point, please tell us Tim if the combined attempted murder + murder rates are rising or falling.

  5. When I was mugged the little bugger tried to stick his knife in my heart. If I’d spent my youth at mid on instead if first slip I might have been killed.

    This points to an underappreciated cost of the decline of cricket in the schools.

  6. Stats on these figures are available from 1898

    In 1898 Murder,manslaughter and infanticide 328
    attempted murder 77

    in 2001/2002 these were 891 and 856 (last year I have, must be more recent data available now) If I remember correctly down loaded the spreadsheet off the home office site a few years back

  7. For road accidents in the UK, there is a published figure called Killed & Seriously Injured. With road accidents there’s less political need to sweeten the pill, as safer cars and mobile phones are bringing down deaths (as well as better medicine).

  8. The CPS is often reluctant to charge attempted murder as you have to prove an intention to kill rather than murder which requires only an intention to kill or commit GBH. Prosecutors therefore often prefer to charge section 18 GBH as it’s easier to prove than attempted murder. This perhaps explains the limited use of the charge despite the improvement in medical outcomes.

  9. A few years ago I learned that the police and the NHS issued different figures for road deaths. The discrepancy was (my memory isn’t brilliant, I confess) about 15% or so.

  10. Causes? How about the disarming of the law abiding population? the escalation of the “war on Drugs”? to name but two

  11. “New York murders fell dramatically when hospitals were compelled to admit critical cases irrespective of insurance cover”

    It seems unlikely to be true, given that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act was passed in 1986, but the murder rate continued to rise for another four years before peaking in 1990.

    Donohue and Levitt argued that the fall after 1990 was mostly due to a reduction in the number of criminals coming of age following Row vs. Wade 17 years earlier.

  12. The test of whether quicker medical treatment is a factor is to compare against the general fall in the crime rates. Crime as a whole has fallen dramatically in New York like the rest of the USA since the 1980s.

  13. I’ve read the conviction rate for murder rose after the death penalty was abolished. Juries before then were reluctant to send someone to their death, but felt easier about giving someone a life sentence, with the possibility of being released if later shown to be innocent.
    This might explain part of the increase in the “murder” rate after the sixties.

  14. It’s of course also worth noting that investigative techniques have improved massively over the last 100, and indeed the last 30, years. You’re much less likely to get away with poisoning someone and having it assigned as ‘natural causes’ now than in 1900.

    Judge: nice theory but unlikely – homicide stats aren’t based on murder + manslaughter convictions, for obvious reasons (stats are based on likelihood and assigned for the year in question; convictions are beyond-reasonable-doubt and often take place later).

  15. The CPS is often reluctant to charge attempted murder

    Sharkboy, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the extensive use of plea bargaining to a lesser charge, especially in the US, badly corrupts the figures. Although as john b pointed out, convictions aren’t always the basis for these sorts of stats.

    There’s probably an apples and oranges comparison problem too. Similar to life expectancy stats, where from memory some countries don’t count infant mortality? Which skews the figures quite a lot.

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