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Violence Prevention and Control
Research and Programmatic Efforts in Minnesota:
The Next Step

BACKGROUND of the PROBLEM

At the national level, an average of sixty-five people a day die from interpersonal violence and more than 6000 are physically injured each day (Mercy et al., 1993). In 1988, an estimated 1,016 to 2,026 children died from physical abuse and neglect (McClain et al., 1993), and earlier data from a 1988 study by Westat cited in Mercy et al. (1993) revealed that a minimum of 1.6 million children experienced some form of non-fatal abuse or neglect. Homicide, accounting for over 20,000 deaths each year, is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-34, and is the leading cause of death for young African American males (Fingerhut and Kleinman, 1990; Singh, Kochanek, and MacDorman, 1996). The Department of Justice's 1991 report on Criminal Victimization in the U.S. as cited in Mercy et al. (1993) revealed that non-fatal assaults account for a higher risk among those 12-24 years of age than in any other age group. Furthermore, although males have the highest rate of work-related homicide, it is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace, accounting for 40% of all occupational deaths among women (Jenkins et al., 1993; NIOSH, 1996).

The magnitude of the problem is also revealed in cost estimates. Between 1987 and 1990, the average costs of medical and mental health treatment, emergency medical response, productivity losses, and administration of health insurance and disability payments for the victims of assaultive injuries were estimated at $34 billion, with lost quality of life estimated at an additional $145 billion (Miller et al., 1993).

Evidence of violence exists at the state level as well, even in states presumed to be relatively safe, such as Minnesota. Statistics indicating the level of violence in Minnesota were compiled by a Violence Prevention Advisory Task Force (1995) and the Office of Drug Policy and Violence Prevention, for the consideration and action of the state's Governor and Legislature; selected examples follow.

In 1993, violent crime (murder, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults) accounted for 8% of all criminal offenses, an increase for the state over the preceding year. Total criminal offenses were 199,691; violent offenses known or reported to police increased 31% from 1987 to 1993, while arrests for violent offenses increased 41%. In addition, the number of adult felony court cases increased 47% during that time, while the prison population increased 65% (Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 1995).

The highest rate of homicides in the state of Minnesota, based on data from 1988 to 1992, occurred in children under age one (6.2/100,000); in Minneapolis the rate was 26.7/100,000 population (Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 1995). In 1992, the following proportions of Minnesota students reported that they had been physically abused or had witnessed abuse involving other family members: sixth grade, 17%; ninth grade, 21%; and twelfth grade, 18% (Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 1995). These data reveal the heightened vulnerability of our state's youngest citizens.

Racial incidents constituted 74% of all bias-motivated crimes in 1993. This has been interpreted by the Violence Prevention Advisory Task Force as suggesting that violence is being used as a means to resist Minnesota's growing diversity (Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 1995). As noted by this task force, the statistics, "...while not individually startling, collectively reflect a climate of violence in Minnesota. The sense of security that has pervaded Minnesota communities in the past has been seriously undermined by the violence evident in these statistics."

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