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Using ambulance data to reduce community violence

critical literature review

Taylor, Alexander; Boyle, Adrian; Sutherland, Alex; Giacomantonio, Chris

European Journal of Emergency Medicine: August 2016 - Volume 23 - Issue 4 - p 248–252
doi: 10.1097/MEJ.0000000000000351

Background Previous work has demonstrated that much violence requiring medical help is not recorded by the police. Sharing emergency department data on victims of violence is associated with reductions in community violence and is well established throughout the UK. We undertook a critical literature review to determine whether sharing ambulance data was useful to identify violence hotspots and offered unique information for violence prevention.

Method A search of the major medical and criminological databases was undertaken using search terms related to the ambulance service, violence and assault, as well as data collection. The search was conducted within the NICE Evidence, Cochrane Library, Google Scholar, Criminal Justice Abstracts, Scopus and National Criminal Justice Reference Service databases, along with the websites of various relevant institutions.

Results Overall, 36 papers were identified by abstract scanning and bibliography search, of which 10 were considered relevant. A further nine papers were detected in the grey literature, and two were considered to be useful in providing evidence for use of ambulance data in violence surveillance. Two of the identified papers were interventional studies, and the other 10 were observational studies.

Discussion Although the standard of evidence was generally low, most studies demonstrated that ambulance services detected a substantial proportion of assaults that were not recorded by the police or the emergency departments. We identified only two interventional studies, but they were of low quality. Although the interventional evidence base is currently weak, ambulance data provide a unique source of information about the epidemiology of community violence and have the potential to improve current violent crime surveillance methods.

aClinical School, Cambridge University

bCambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust

cRAND Europe, Cambridge, UK

Correspondence to Adrian Boyle, MD, FCEM, Box 87, Emergency Department, Addenbrookes Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK Tel: +44 122 321 7792; e-mail:

Received June 25, 2015

Accepted October 28, 2015

Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.