Police to use A&E data to cut violent crime

A police scheme which uses anonymised A&E data to work out crime hotspots in Cardiff has been so successful it is to be rolled out across the country.

Officers have cut the number of violent incidents, from fist fights to stabbings, by over 40 per cent by counting where they occur according to the records of those admitted to hospital. The police then focused resources on those areas. The results were compared with 14 similar cities and showed that targeting police intervention reduced incidents by 42 per cent.

Hospital admissions for injuries caused by violence in the city fell from seven to five a month, while in the comparison cities, admissions rose from five to eight a month.

The researchers, led by Jonathan Shepherd, professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Cardiff – whose findings are published in the British Medical Journal – say that while rates of woundings fell significantly there was an increase in common assaults which did not cause injury.

"One plausible explanation for these findings is that more accurate targeting of hotspots, earlier and more frequent police [investigation], and better deployment of CCTV led to faster and more frequent police intervention in assaults and their precursors (such as arguments)," the research said.

"The increased presence of police at hotspots could also have led to increased reporting of common assaults by witnesses and victims and subsequent recording by police."

The scheme is being rolled out across the UK following a pledge by the Coalition government to promote the sharing of information on violence between hospitals and the police.

In 2008-9, police recorded over 900,000 violent incidents in England and Wales. It is estimated that violence resulted in medical and lost productivity costs of over £2bn.

The precise location, time and weapons used were recorded in the study over four years.

The information has to be anonymised to protect the identity of the injured who might otherwise be deterred from seeking medical help. Much violence is often not known to the police because victims do not report it or fear reprisals.

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