Violent crimes and the cost to taxpayers: A FOX28 Special Report - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Violent crimes and the cost to taxpayers: A FOX28 Special Report

Posted:
We've been reporting for weeks about the violent start to 2014. From what city leaders and the police department are doing to combat violent crime, to the many vigils held in honor of victims.

There's another player involved when we talk about shootings and murders; the staff at the Trauma Center at Memorial Hospital, working to save the lives of the dozens of victims who've been in the E.R. this year, and the work they do doesn't come cheap.

The Trauma Center is here to take care of the people in our community when they need it most. So far, this year has been busier than usual, at least when it comes to treating patients who have been shot or stabbed.

There's been seven murders and more than 30 shootings in South Bend so far in 2014. "We know that if you can make it to our trauma center, your chances of survival are quite good," says Medical Director of Trauma Services at Memorial Hospital, Dr. Scott Thomas. It's a title that is personal to Thomas, having grown up in Elkhart. "Seeing everyone survive and do well is important to me, because it is my home."

Thomas worked to certify Memorial Hospital as a Trauma Center in 2004 and now any critically-injured shooting or stabbing victims go there.  "It takes a system of people to take care of these critically injured patients. The system we have in place is verified by the American College of Surgeons," says Thomas.

That system of people has been busy, responding to the recent violence in South Bend. "The number of penetrating injuries that we've seen over the past couple of months has been a bit unusually high for this time of year." By penetrating injuries, Dr. Thomas means gunshot wounds and stabbings.

"We're at a higher than normal rate of homicides, however, we're only 25 percent through the year," says Captain Phil Trent with the South Bend Police Department. "We could go through a period with little or no gun violence."

That being said, Dr. Thomas says in a normal year, the Trauma Center's rate of patients with penetrating injuries is pretty high compared to similar communities. "Fort Wayne is 4%. Kalamazoo is 4%. But yet, when we come to South Bend, we look at anywhere from 9-14% of our trauma population are victims of penetrating trauma," says Thomas.

Those injuries come with a pretty hefty pricetag. Dr. Thomas says a typical gunshot patient might cost in the neighborhood of $250,000 and not every patient pays. The American Medical Association says half the cost of a gunshot injury is paid for by taxpayers, through programs like Medicaid and higher charges to other programs and higher insurance premiums.

So let's do the math:  Trauma center data about patients from St. Joe County show in 2012, 47 shooting victims were treated at a whopping $11,750,000. In 2013, 39 shooting victims were treated at $9,750,000. In just the first two months of this year, seven shooting victims were treated. That's a cost $1,750,000.

"And those patients require an enormous amount of resources, and it can be very costly," says Thomas. "A real critical patient might cost well into the millions of dollars."

National studies show a deadly shooting can cost more than $5 million dollars, and a non-deadly shooting $425,000 when you factor in the costs of the criminal justice system and quality of life losses.

While it may not seem like it lately, Captain Phil Trent says since he joined the force in the mid-80s, the city is a  safer place to live.  "Over the past decade, numbers of homicides and shootings have gone down. It's too early to say whether it's at its lowest level ever or not," says Trent.

Trent credits advances in medicine for a drop in homicides. "I would roundly agree with that. Absolutely. Advances in emergency medicine have vastly reduced the number of homicides we end up with," he says.

Dr. Thomas says some of those advances include working with EMS to get victims to the trauma center faster. He says the trauma center has also been working with experts at the University of Notre Dame on blood management. Another thing Thomas says is that much research has been done on shock and resuscitation. All of these things mean more lives saved. "When we look at our data, our survival rates have gone up as a result of our resuscitation protocols," he says.

Dr. Thomas says that's the rewarding part, especially considering this violent start to 2014. "It takes a lot of resources to manage these patients, and yes, our staff can get a little bit weathered taking care of this population because because they are an intensive group of patients, require a lot of resources," says Thomas. "It can be exhausting for our staff, but they step up and do a fantastic job."

Dr. Thomas says something else the the trauma center does is get involved in violence prevention. He says he's getting out into the community to talk with people and also bringing young people to the hospital to show that a life of violence really isn't glamorous and there are terrible consequences.  "We're here to help you, but we're also here to prevent you from getting in harm's way," says Thomas. He says he's also working with police to try to integrate violence prevention programs.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Two shot, one killed in downtown Chicago office building

    Two shot, one killed in downtown Chicago office building

    200 block of LaSalle in Chicago (FOX32 photo)200 block of LaSalle in Chicago (FOX32 photo)
    CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A recently demoted executive entered a Loop office building in Chicago on Thursday morning and shot the company’s CEO before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide, authorities said. The shooting happened just before 10 a.m. at the ArrowStream company on the 17th floor of the Bank of America building, 231 S. LaSalle St. “Apparently he was despondent over the fact that he got demoted,” Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said.More >>
    CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A recently demoted executive entered a Loop office building in Chicago on Thursday morning and shot the company’s CEO before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide, authorities said. The shooting happened just before 10 a.m. at the ArrowStream company on the 17th floor of the Bank of America building, 231 S. LaSalle St. “Apparently he was despondent over the fact that he got demoted,” Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said.More >>
  • 2 arrested after judge spots own stolen bike

    2 arrested after judge spots own stolen bike

    Two juveniles have been arrested after an Ingham County judge spotted one of them pedaling around on his stolen bicycle.More >>
    Two juveniles have been arrested after an Ingham County judge spotted one of them pedaling around on his stolen bicycle.More >>
  • Strong Thunderstorms moving through Michiana

    Strong Thunderstorms moving through Michiana

    Strong Thunderstorms are on the move toward central La Porte County Friday afternoon. According to the National Weather Service, a strong thunderstorm is located near Westville moving East at 10 miles per hour. One-half inch diameter hail, 40 mph or higher wind gusts, lighting and heavy downpours are expected. La Porte, Kingsford Heights, Pinhook, Pinola, Union Mills, Kingsbury and Tracy are in the path of the storm. This includes interstate 80 and 90 between mile markers 38 and 47.More >>
    Strong Thunderstorms are on the move toward central La Porte County Friday afternoon. According to the National Weather Service, a strong thunderstorm is located near Westville moving East at 10 miles per hour. One-half inch diameter hail, 40 mph or higher wind gusts, lighting and heavy downpours are expected. La Porte, Kingsford Heights, Pinhook, Pinola, Union Mills, Kingsbury and Tracy are in the path of the storm. This includes interstate 80 and 90 between mile markers 38 and 47.More >>
Powered by WorldNow

Fox 28

WSJV-TV FOX 28
58096 County Road 7, South
Elkhart, IN 46517

Switchboard: 574.679.9758
News Phone: 574.679.4545
Station Fax: 574.294.1267
Email: fox28news@fox28.com

All content ©Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WSJV. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service and Mobile Privacy Policy & Terms of Service.

Persons with disabilities who need assistance with issues relating to the content of this station's public inspection file should contact Administrative Assistant Heather Stewart at (574) 343-5310. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, at 888-835-5322 (TTY) or at fccinfo@fcc.gov.