Hospitals as crime-fighters

Hospitals sharing information with the police could substantially reduce crime in the area at "modest" cost, according to a new study in Injury Prevention.

The idea began at a Cardiff, Wales hospital's emergency department, according to Jonathan Shepherd, the study's coauthor and a surgical professor at Cardiff University.  Although the hospital had information on where and how patients sustained injuries, many people who are hospitalized after fights never report the incident to the police.

"They don't know who the perpetrator was, so what's the point?" Shepherd told NPR. "And they're afraid of having their own conduct scrutinized. If it's a fist fight or gang-related or drug-related, nobody's going to want to go to the police."

Instead, according to the article, after redacting names and other identifying information, the hospital shared information with the police, which helped the police identify and target particularly violence-prone spots.

According to the researchers, sharing the information reduced injuries sustained in fights or similar incidents. That, in turn, "reduced the economic and social costs of violence" by about $11 million in 2007.

Furthermore, between 2003 and 2007, the program had a benefit-cost ratio of about $131 per dollar spent. According to the NPR article, the program costs the city about $338,000 a year.

A 2011 study of the same program produced similar results, finding that since the "Cardiff experiment," hospital admissions had dropped by 42 percent compared to cities with no such reporting plan, and that there were 32 percent fewer injuries documented by police. By last year, a third of all emergency departments in England had implemented the same plan, Shepherd told NPR.

To learn more:
- here's the Injury Prevention study abstract
- here's the NPR article
- here's the 2011 study abstract