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explaining in part the overall increase in violent crime seen in the UCR

Program data. The NCHS data, possibly the most reliable source of homicide

surveillance, are based on medical examiners’ judgments, which are subject to

error or bias as well.[13]


Health professionals concerned with adolescent violence have many questions

and few answers. Why are adolescents, independent of gender and race,

increasingly engaging in acts of violence? What are the consequences of early

involvement in acts of violence, as either the victim or the perpetrator? Why

are rates of violence higher among some adolescent demographic subgroups


others? Why are firearm-related homicides increasing among youths aged 10


24 years but decreasing for those aged 25 years and older?

In the late 1980s, the public health field recognized that the epidemic of the

acquired immunodeficiency syndrome had engulfed the adolescent


Therefore, new developmentally appropriate intervention approaches that


on those targeting adults were necessary.[41,49] Evidence exists that public

health research has responded to this challenge (B.S.; Nina Kim, Ma; Jennifer

Galbraith, MA; Maureen Parrott, MD; unpublished data, September 1994).

Likewise, it is time to recognize that the highest rates of violence and the

highest increases in violence are occurring not among adults but among

children. Researchers should draw on the substantial intervention and

developmental literature regarding adolescent risk behavior to incorporate

these data into national planning activities for primary, secondary, and

tertiary prevention.



Crime data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (Victimization

Survey)[10-12] and the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program,[13]

beginning in

Janary 1973 and ending in December 1992, were examined. Homicides from

1970 to

1991 were analyzed with the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

mortality data[14,15] from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Firearth-related homicides from 1979 to 1991 were also analyzed with the


mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Victimization Survey

The Victimization Survey[10-12] data were obtained from a stratified,

multistage cluster sample of housing units. Housing units included family

households and group quarters, such as dormitories, rooming houses, and

religious group dwellings. A basic screening questionnaire and a crime

incident report were used to obtain victimization data. (For further

information on the survey method, see Sourcebook of Criminal Justice

Statistics–1993,[13] Appendix 8.) Thus, the Victimization Survey addresses

crime from the perspective of the victim; homicide is not included in the

Victimization Survey, since this survey is based on self-report data.

UCR Program

Nationwide data on crimes are collected from individual law enforcement

agencies and tabulated by city, county, metropolitan statistical area,

demographic group, and geographic division.[13] Statistics are published

annually, with a lag between incidence and reporting of about 6 months. The

UCR system collects basic information about the most serious crime


in a single event. Supplemental information about the circumstances of

homicides and characteristics of arrestees is also contained in this data set.

NCHS Mortality Data

These data are generated by the 50 states and the District of columbia.[14,15]

The statistics include age, gender, race, geographic data, and cause of death

coded according to the International Classification of diseases, Ninth

Revision.[15] Data were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention. Data on firearm-related homicides were obtained through CDC

WONDER/PC Version 2, the on-line computer software package from the


for Disease Control and Prevention.


Although no standard definition of violence exists, violence is defined in

this article as “behaviors by individuals that intentionally threaten,

attempt, or inflict physical harm on others.”[16] This broad definition,

therefore, includes all acts of violent crime and is compatible with the

definitions used by the UCR Program and the Victimization Survey. Personal

crimes of violence include homicide, rape, robbery, and assault (both

aggravated and simple). Rates of personal crimes of violence include both

attempted and completed crimes (unless otherwise specified) and always


contact between the victim and the offender.

The following definitions are those used by the UCR Program and the

Victimization Survey.[12] Assault is an unlawful physical attack or threat of

attack. Aggravated assault consists of an attack with a resultant serious

injury or an attack with a weapon regardless of whether an injury occurred.

Simple assault consists of an attack without a weapon. If there is a resultant

injury, it is minor or, if undetermined, requires less than 2 days of

hospitalization. The UCR Program data do not categorize simple assault as

violent crime. Homicide includes both murder and nonnegligent manslaughter

(the willful killing of one human being by another). Rape is defined as carnal

knowledge through the use of force or the threat of force, including attempts

(statutory rape is excluded). The UCR Program data include only


of females. Robbery is defined as completed or attempted theft, directly from

a person, of property or cash by force or threat of force, with or without a



Analyses focused on two specific questions: (1) Is there evidence for

increased rates of acts of violence? (2) Is there evidence that a specific

demographic group is experiencing this increase disproportionate to the

general population? Given the exploratory nature of these analyses, specific

hypotheses were not articulated. Rather, each of the data sources described

above was explored for data relevant to these questions. Violent crime data

were examined overall and by specific sociodemographic variables. Trend


were available for all analyses of violent crime except age by gender by race.

For this three-way analysis, 1992 data were used. It was anticipated that

these analyses would lead to the formulation of hypotheses that could be

empirically tested in subsequent research as well as enable targeting of

subsequent intervention efforts.


Accepted for publication January 30, 1995.

Reprint requests to Center for Minority Health Research, University of

Maryland, 712 W Lombard St, Baltimore, MD 21201 (Ms Rachuba).


[1.] Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health. Index Medicus.

Washington, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 1970;7. [2.] Public


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Health Service, National Institutes of Health. Index Medicus. Washington,


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Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Criminal Victimization in the United

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publication NCJ-145125. [11.] US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice

Statistics. Criminal Victimization in the U.S., 1973-1990 Trends.


DC: US Dept of Justice; 1992. US Dept of Justice publication NCJ-139564.


US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Criminal


in the U.S., 1991. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice; 1992. US Dept of

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Criminal Justice Statistics–1993. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice,


of Justice Statistics; 1994. US Dept of Justice publication NCJ-148211. [14.]

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Surveillance: High-Risk Racial and Ethnic Groups–Blacks and Hispanics;

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J. Understanding and Preventing Violence. Washington, DC: National


Press; 1993. [17.] US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs,

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Juvenile Violent


Arrest Rates, 1972-1992. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice; 1994. [18.]


Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Age-Specific Arrest

Rates and Race-specific Arrest Rates for Selected Offenses, 1965-1992.

Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice, Uniform Crime Reporting Program;


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R, Slavens G, Linden C. Factors associated with the use of violence among

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Flora JA,

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From the Center for Minority Health Research, University of Maryland,

Baltimore (Ms Rachuba and Drs Stanton and Howard); and Division of


Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland Medical School,

Baltimore (Dr Stanton).

— End –

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