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For Release:
April 07, 2008

Heather Howard

For Further Information Contact:
Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160

New Jersey Works to Develop Violence Prevention Strategies: DHSS Report Provides a Look Into Violent Deaths in the State


Violence causes nearly 1,000 deaths in New Jersey each year, according to a new report released by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. 


Violent Deaths in New Jersey, 2003-2005 provides data on violent deaths over a three-year period from the New Jersey Violent Death Reporting System (NJVDRS).  The NJVDRS is funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is designed to increase the understanding of the circumstances surrounding violent death in order to improve prevention efforts.  CDC initially launched the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) in 2002.


Key findings from the report determined that homicide and suicide are among the leading causes of death among young adults in the state of New Jersey. Among 15 to 34-year-olds, homicide causes more loss of life then every other cause except motor vehicle crashes.  For the same ages, suicide is the 4th leading cause of death. 


The report also showed that while suicide rates state-wide are below the national average and have remained fairly stable in recent years, homicide rates in New Jersey have risen 28% since 2000, reaching the highest levels since the mid-1990’s.          


The following is an overview of additional key findings from the report:        


  • 1,758 suicides took place in New Jersey between 2003 and 2005, or an average of approximately 580 per year.
  • The most common circumstance associated with suicide is a mental health problem.
  • Among the elderly, physical health problems are a major suicide circumstance.
  • Among adolescents, recent crises and relationship problems with family, friends, or an intimate partner are important suicide circumstances.
  • Males committed suicide far more often than females between 2003 and 2005 (1,390 vs 368).
  • More than half of homicides in 2005 were directly associated with gang activity, drug trafficking, drive-by shootings, or had other circumstances associated with gang or ‘gang-like’ activity.
  • Thirty-five percent of homicides were among those 24 years of age and under; 30% were among those aged 25 to 34 years.


The report also provides a detailed summary of suicide and homicides rates by age, gender, race, and county of residence.  Also highlighted are violent deaths among children; family violence and other homicide circumstances; and a measurement of gang and “gang-like” homicides. 


“The unique data provided by NJVDRS helps inform injury prevention professionals by presenting a detailed picture of the characteristics and circumstances surrounding violent deaths,” said Katherine Hempstead, PhD, director of New Jersey’s Office of Injury Surveillance and Prevention and Center for Health Statistics.        


“For example, measuring gang-related homicide is difficult using conventional sources,” Hempstead said.  “The detailed circumstance information in NJVDRS allow us to create definitions based on homicide characteristics of concern to law enforcement.  This aids prevention and enforcement activities.”


Since data collection began on January 1, 2003, NJVDRS has provided unique data to identify patterns of violent death which are critical to developing prevention strategies.  Some of the ways that New Jersey is putting NVDRS data to good use include:


  • Working with the state’s Child Fatality Review Board to increase knowledge about child fatalities     
  • Collaborating with the Domestic Fatality Review Board to better understand murder-suicides among intimate partners
  • Participating in the development of a statewide crime prevention plan, and convening experts to discuss gang violence in New Jersey


For an electronic copy of Violent Deaths in New Jersey, 2003-2005 visit


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