Violent Death Reporting in Maryland: Demographic Variability in Data Completeness

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Abstract

Objectives

To analyze the completeness of precipitating circumstance information recorded in the Maryland Violent Death Reporting System and identify limitations that could affect the system's utility.

Methods

We reviewed all violent deaths among Maryland residents for the years 2003 through 2014 (n = 19 161). We assessed the presence of precipitating circumstance data (abstracted from medical examiner and police reports) by manner of death and demographic characteristics. We further evaluated homicide records with multivariable regression.

Results

Demographic variation in circumstance reporting was most pronounced for homicide. Circumstances were known for 53.2% of homicide cases, and this percentage was lower among non-Latino Blacks (48.2%), males (50.7%), those aged 18 to 25 years (47.9%), those residing in jurisdictions with higher-than-average homicide rates (46.1%), and those who died outside in a public place (43.4%) or in a correctional facility (48.9%). With the exception of male gender, these factors were significantly associated with circumstance reporting when we controlled for demographic and situational variables.

Conclusions

Circumstance reporting was least likely among groups most at risk for homicide in Maryland. Collection of circumstance data for the most affected groups should be strengthened to help develop better prevention strategies.

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