Illustration(s) pertain to the topic addressed in this publication, not the specific research or data presented in the publication

A comparison of primary and secondary homicides in the United States


In 1979, over 20,000 people in the United States were victims of homicide, but public health agencies have not yet defined their role in its prevention. Role definition might begin with differentiating various forms of homicide, so the authors used data on all homicides reported by law enforcement agencies for 1976-1979 to determine whether homicides that did not occur during the perpetration of another crime (primary homicides) differ from those that occurred during the perpetration of another crime (secondary homicides). Primary and secondary homicide rates were highest in the South and West, respectively. The relative risk for Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas (SMSAs) compared with non-SMSAs was 2.4 for secondary homicide but only 1.3 for primary homicide. It was found that 17% of primary homicides and 3% of secondary homicides had a female offender. Primary homicides were more frequently intersexual and intraracial than were secondary homicides. Victim and offender ages were similar to one another in primary homicides and dissimilar in secondary ones. Over 75% of primary homicides involved family members or acquaintances, compared to only 24% of secondary homicides. The authors conclude that primary and secondary homicides are epidemiologically dissimilar, and they suggest that public health concern should focus on primary homicide. Prevention and intervention measures should concentrate on discussed target populations. Techniques might include stress reduction and conflict avoidance.

Jason J, Strauss LT, Tyler CW

Am. J. Epidemiol. 1983 Mar;117(3):309-19

PMID: 6829558