Violent Deaths are Preventable…the New York Violent Death Reporting System

NY Sheriffs Association

Many violent deaths happen in foreseeable, avoidable ways, suggesting that starting prevention early can help reduce the number of these deaths. The number of suicides and homicides occurring are national crises. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans and the 2nd leading cause of death among persons aged 25-34 years. Despite declines observed in many jurisdictions, nationally homicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among persons aged 15-34 years1. The emotional strife, life stressors (e.g., job loss, difficulties in their personal relationships) and mental health issues – that both contribute to and result from these devastating deaths – provide added incentive to advance prevention strategies.

The New York Violent Death Reporting System (NYVDRS) is a powerful tool that helps us understand these tragic events. NYVDRS allows law enforcement and public health officials to share information to develop a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding violent deaths. You are critical contributors to building this knowledge by collecting and sharing detailed investigative reports.

NYVDRS is part of the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) which currently is the only standardized, state-based reporting system for violent deaths. NVDRS defines a violent death as one that ‘results from the intended use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or a group or community’. This includes suicides, homicides, deaths due to unintentional firearm discharges, deaths by legal law enforcement intervention, and terrorism-related deaths. NVDRS’s most unique feature is its assimilation of information from three sources: death certificates, coroner/medical examiner reports (including toxicology reports) and law enforcement reports. Together, these three sources provide states and communities a comprehensive picture of the circumstances surrounding violent deaths. NVDRS data are collected under the same federal security and confidentiality guidelines that govern other surveillance activities and no personally identifying information is contained in NVDRS. NVDRS data describes the “who, when, where, and how” of violent deaths, which can lead to a better understanding of the “why.”

In 2015, there were 1,379 violent deaths in New York State, outside of New York City. Of these deaths, 1,008 (73%) were suicides and 265 (19%) were homicides. We had excellent response from our statewide law enforcement partners in collecting information on these deaths with some data provided for 90% of our requests. Circumstances about the deaths were provided by law enforcement in 50% of homicides and 82% of suicides. Circumstances collected in law enforcement reports include past criminal history, weapons, perpetrator information, context of injury (i.e., what was the suspect was doing at the time of the injury), and the mechanism of injury (i.e., how the injury occurred). Specific circumstances such as justifiable self-defense, random violence, hate crimes, relationship problems, life stressors, and suicide markers (e.g., disclosing intent to harm oneself) are other variables that are essential to collect from your reports. As seen in the table below, this information has the ability to assist us in targeting public health interventions to reduce these deaths, but it is currently unknown whether the numbers are a true reflection of the problem, or are they undercounted because the information was either not collected or not provided to NYVDRS.

Table 1. Common Law Enforcement Circumstances by Death Manner Circumstance  Frequency  Percent* 
Depressed Mood 332 40%
Mental Health Problem 317 38%
Suicide Note 294 36%
History of treatment of mental illness 232 28%
Intimate Partner Problem 204 25%
Argument 35 27%
Intimate Partner Violence 34 26%
Precipitated by Another Crime 25 19%
Other Crime in Progress 24 18%
Fight Between Two People 23 17%


Using multi-sourced data to further describe violent deaths and support an integrated approach to preventing violence is the core mission of NYVDRS.To further this goal, we need your support to obtain accurate data to and ensure complete information on each violent death that occurs in New York State. NYVDRS 2015 data is finalized and now available for specific data requests and researchers to use. If you have data requests, please let us know.

We invite you to visit or contact us at for additional details. We cannot do this alone. Together, we could save a life!


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2015) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC (producer). Available from