A surgeon in Cardiff, Wales, who regularly treated victims of violence, discovered that many cases went unreported. He devised a model for collecting data and collaborating with both law enforcement and community to predict and prevent violence. This approach is now taking root here in the United States.
Weekend after weekend, the wave of emergency department (ED) patients would arrive. Oral and maxillofacial surgeon Jonathan Shepard would treat shattered jaws, knife wounds and other facial injuries at the hospital in Cardiff, Wales. These injuries stemmed from brawls in bars and nightclubs where broken glasses and bottles were wielded as weapons. Strangely, Dr. Shepard found that only 23 percent of these assaults treated in the hospital were reported to law enforcement.
Harnessing the Power of Data for Violence Prevention
Determined to find a way to stem the violence, Dr. Shepard mobilized health care providers, law enforcement heads, city officials and other local leaders in working together to address what was happening within their community.
Local hospitals agreed to gather basic anonymized information from each assault victim admitted to the emergency department, including the specific location of the violent incident, time of day, and weapon involved. They removed patient identifiers and shared the anonymous data with local law enforcement officials, who combined those data with their own records.
With these data, police were able to map when and where violence might happen, and concentrate resources on hotspot locations such as specific streets, businesses, schools, or transit stations, and during particular times of the week, to help prevent incidents.