A key concern in crime analysis is the “hidden crime” problem. Crime events unaccounted for in police records limit the external validity of official statistics and, more importantly, hinder the ability of the police to manage crime and utilize their resources effectively. The problem is exacerbated in proactive initiatives aimed at curbing violence through hotspot policing, where inaccuracies and imprecision, or, worse, no data at all, diminish prevention efforts. Previous studies have sought to overcome the data problem by juxtaposing police records with ambulance data on assault callouts and have found profound disparities. Specifically, researchers matched “crime hotspots” with “ambulance hotspots” (rather than individual events) because patient confidentiality considerations have prevented health professionals from sharing subject-level data with the police. However, health services can safely share spatial data on wider areas that do not disclose personal information. We build on this line of inquiry by analyzing data from the Thames Valley, United Kingdom, and observing spatial hotspots of different sizes. The results demonstrate that while the police and ambulance services attend to the same communities and similar types of facilities, the police are “blinded” to the location of nearly 8 out of 10 assaults. The incongruency is shown even with severe assaults, but to a lesser extent. We then simulate the reduction in injuries if the police had access to health data at different spatial levels and show that even under the most conservative set of assumptions, such an approach can prevent between 113 and 116 violent injuries each year that might otherwise require hospitalization.
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© 2023 The Authors. Transactions in GIS published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.