Is Violent Crime Actually Falling, Or Is It Just That More People Are Surviving Gunshot Wounds?
July 23, 2013, 03:54 PM
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You've probably noticed that Chicago's weekend shooting wrap-up articles tend to have headlines with ratios of dead to wounded like this from the long Fourth of July weekend:

Chicago Shootings: 12 Killed, At Least 62 Wounded In Gun Violence Over Long Holiday Weekend

These days in Chicago, a city with fine trauma care centers, it's not uncommon for only 15 or 20 percent of gunshot victims to die, at least according to my scan of weekend wrap-up headlines.

From the WSJ in 2012:

At the same time, medical data and other surveys in the U.S. show a rising number of serious injuries from assaults with guns and knives. The estimated number of people wounded seriously enough by gunshots to require a hospital stay, rather than treatment and release, rose 47% to 30,759 in 2011 from 20,844 in 2001, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program.


Now, this statistic might not be the gold standard of serious violent crime, either. Perhaps guns improved enough to to do more serious damage requiring more than treatment and release. What about better ambulances keeping victims alive long enough to get to the hospital rather than the morgue? Still, this stat raises questions about the assumption that violent crime is steadily falling.

The CDC estimates showed the number of people injured in serious stabbings rose to 23,550 from 22,047 over the same period. 

Mortality rates of gunshot victims, meanwhile, have fallen, according to research performed for The Wall Street Journal by the Howard-Hopkins Surgical Outcomes Research Center, a joint venture between Howard University and Johns Hopkins University. In 2010, 13.96% of U.S. shooting victims died, almost two percentage points lower than in 2007.