Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MURDER RATE; an Interesting Start

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MURDER RATE; an Interesting Start

Article excerpt

Duval County Health Department's venture into the community's murder and violence issues has already produced an eye-opening discussion point.

A new report from the department says Duval County emergency rooms are six to seven more times likely to treat injuries from gun wounds as Hillsborough and Orange counties, which have larger populations.

The numbers originated from emergency room details for 2005 collected by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

Yet, other statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show Duval had about 3,000 fewer aggravated assaults in 2005 than either Hillsborough or Orange counties.

How can our county have such a higher rate of emergency room visits for gunshot wounds yet trail so far behind in aggravated assaults? Especially when Duval is far ahead of both counties in murders and murder rate?

The answers aren't yet clear.

But it is apparent the health department can provide new insights on a nagging problem.

Perhaps others will follow.

Duval has led the state in murder rate for the last seven years in a row and 13 of the last 18 years, although overall crime has fallen in recent years.

Health officials say a closer inspection of the roots of murder and violence from a health perspective could help unravel clues to combating the problems and providing more early prevention.

Duval County has high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, infant mortality, diabetes and stroke, and teenage births. How do those factors and others - such as poverty and illiteracy - lead to murder and violence?

And how can a better understanding foster more solutions?

A new department task force will evaluate the usefulness of prevention efforts here, explore best practices elsewhere and offer suggestions to city officials on how to best channel public dollars to make a difference.

"This problem goes much beyond criminal justice," said health department Director Robert Harmon. …

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