Intended for healthcare professionals


Preventing violent crime

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 08 May 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k1967
  1. John Middleton, president1,
  2. Jonathan Shepherd, professor of faciomaxillary surgery2
  1. 1UK Faculty of Public Health,
  1. 2University of Cardiff, Cardiff, UK
  2. Correspondence to: J Middleton president{at}

Partnerships between health, education, social, and police services are essential

The recent surge in killings in north London has created public outcry. The Metropolitan police are investigating 55 murders in London so far this year. There have been welcome calls for a “public health approach” to tackling violent crime.1 But what does that entail?

Public health has a role in identifying risk and protective factors, monitoring and understanding the changing threat of violence, and supporting the development of a robust evidence base around what works for prevention and control.234

The public health lexicon describes primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. In criminal justice, these translate to preventing violence happening, controlling or reducing violence when it happens, and rehabilitating or reconciling individuals and communities after violence has occurred.4 A life course approach to violence prevention is also useful—through early years family support, home visits, training in parenting skills, and youth support programmes.245 Adverse childhood experiences influence criminal behaviour as well as mental and physical ill health in later life, and are of growing importance …

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