The authors' final version is posted here. Published in Social Science & Medicine, 66 (2008): 1197-1203. Copyright 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.11.017


The medical literature has focused on violent victimization as a public health concern, examining its correlates and evaluating intervention models. However, the emphasis on victimization in this literature overlooks the strong ties between victimization and offending risks outlined in the criminological literature, which may unnecessarily limit the scope of public health efforts to influence violence in our communities. This study examines whether the similarities observed in the criminological literature are evident in a health care setting. More specifically, do victims and offenders exhibit similar health care utilization patterns? We address this question by comparing the emergency department utilization records, criminal histories, and demographic characteristics of a sample of victims and offenders involved in non-lethal violence in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, USA in 2001. Our results suggest that victims and offenders have similar emergency department utilization patterns, with most visits being for injury. Moreover, most victims seen in the emergency department have criminal records that, in many ways, mirror those of offenders. The results suggest that violence intervention programs in public health settings should target both victims and offenders and capitalize on the overlap across these populations in outlining the long term risks of criminal involvement and motivating individual level change.


Criminology | Medicine and Health | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology