From 2015 through 2019, Arizona saw more than 6,700 suicides, 1,900 homicides and another 830 violent deaths of undetermined manner. The impact of these thousands of violent deaths affects us all. Even if you have not been personally touched by such a tragedy, the social costs to the community, the burden on law enforcement and the criminal justice system, and the overall quality of life for Arizona residents are adversely impacted by homicides and suicides in our communities. And each one them is preventable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) administers the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). The CDC describes the program:

The National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) provides states and communities with a clearer understanding of violent deaths to guide local decisions about efforts to prevent violence and track progress over time. NVDRS is the only state-based reporting system that pools data on violent deaths from multiple sources into a usable, anonymous database.

NVDRS largely defines violent deaths as homicides and suicides, but also includes those deaths that are recorded as “undetermined”, by the coroner or medical examiner. The extensive data abstraction process collects information covering all settings, age groups and circumstances of violent deaths. Specific data elements are likely to include “mental health problems; recent problems with a job, finances, or relationships; physical health problems; and information about circumstances of death. Such data is far more comprehensive than what is available elsewhere.” (CDC)

The NVDRS operates by gathering and collating information on violent deaths from three primary sources of data:

  1. State health department official death certificate data;
  2. Medical Examiner (or coroner) reports conducting the autopsy; and
  3. Law enforcement investigation reports from the responsible jurisdiction.

Currently, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico participate in NVDRS. The Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety (CVPCS) is the lead organization coordinating the AZ-VDRS on behalf of Arizona. To learn more about the NVDRS visit: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nvdrs/.

Linking Data to Save Lives

Linking information about the "who, when, where and how" from data on violent deaths provides insights about "why" they occurred. Frontline investigators, including homicide detectives, coroners, crime lab investigators and medical examiners, collect valuable information about violent deaths. But these data are often not combined in a systematic manner to provide a complete picture.

NVDRS collects facts from four major sources about the same incident, and pools information into a usable, anonymous database. An incident can include one victim or multiple victims. The four major data sources are:

  • Death certificates;
  • Coroner/medical examiner reports;
  • Law enforcement reports; and
  • Crime laboratories.

The facts that are collected about violent deaths include:

  • Circumstances related to suicide such as depression and major life stresses like relationship or financial problems;
  • The relationship between the perpetrator and the victim – for example, if they know each other;
  • Other crimes, such as robbery, committed along with homicide;
  • Multiple homicides, or homicide followed by suicide.

As data become available through the NVDRS online database, state and local violence prevention practitioners use it to guide prevention programs, policies, and practices by:

  • Identifying common circumstances associated with violent deaths of a specific type (e.g., committed during a crime such as robbery, gang violence, or intimate partner violence) or a specific area (e.g., a cluster of suicides);
  • Assisting groups in selecting and targeting violence prevention efforts;
  • Supporting evaluations of violence prevention activities; and
  • Improving the public’s access to in-depth information on violent deaths.

The Center coordinates and conducts all data collection and abstraction, analyses, and dissemination of findings for Arizona. CVPCS works with local agencies across the 15 counties in the state to collect data on violent death incidents and establish a data sharing network. Additionally, the Center provides technical assistance and custom analyses, when possible, for participating agencies, organizations and other partners.

Current data providers and partners: