National study puts cost of violence at billions of dollars

A recent study by an associate professor of the University of Georgia College of Public Health and economist at the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found violence costs the United States $70 billion annually, including $64.4 billion from lost productivity and $5.6 billion on medical care. That’s almost as much as the $80 billion for Hurricane Katrina, the author said. The study did not include prosecution, law enforcement and other costs dealing with family members of victims. • Americans suffer 2.2 million medically treated injuries a year due to interpersonal violence, such as homicide, child abuse and neglect, youth violence, domestic violence and other assaults at a cost of $37 million.

DEBORAH CIRCELLI writes for Daytona Beach News Journal.

Robin Silva gently pets her dog Berry’s ear in her living room as a small, gray panic button dangles off her cane nearby.

The dog and the panic button rarely leave her side, providing a new sense of security after she was beaten and robbed last year in her Ormond Beach home by her roommate.

The scars and permanent bruising on Silva’s left leg are a constant reminder of how life can change in a second for victims of violent crimes.

In Holly Hill, Brenda Gillespie only recently convinced her mom, Charlene Burns, 73, to sit on the porch again. Burns was beaten in her Daytona Beach home, then watched her other daughter, Elizabeth “Dean” Uptagrafft, get dragged from her house. The daughter was later killed in Flagler County.

Burns, who was severely bruised in the January attack, only leaves the house for doctor’s appointments, support groups and counseling sessions.

“Our personal safety, I don’t know if we will ever get it back. It’s gone,” said Gillespie, who now cares for her mother.

Experts say violent crimes not only cause physical pain, but emotional problems that last a lifetime and, according to a new study, cost the nation billions of dollars each year.

Results of a national study released this month found that violence such as homicides, battery, child abuse, suicides and domestic violence costs the United States $70 billion annually from victims’ loss of work and medical treatment. The study didn’t look at victims’ families or cost to law enforcement and prosecution.

Both Silva and Uptagrafft’s family have received financial help, counseling and other assistance through the Florida Attorney General’s division of victim services and victim advocates at the local State Attorney’s Office.

About $16.5 million was provided last fiscal year by the state. Victims may receive help with everything from funeral and medical costs to relocating victims of domestic violence. State officials said 17,638 people were eligible to receive services, but did not know how many actually received funding. Floridians who become victims of crimes while traveling abroad also are now eligible based on new legislation signed by the governor Wednesday.

“This is a program that can help make (victims) whole again,” said Rodney Doss, director of the Division of Victim Services for the Attorney General’s office.

The author of the national study, Phaedra Corso, an associate professor at the University of Georgia College of Public Health and a health economist at the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the results show the need for more prevention.

“These dollars are a gross underestimate of the true impact of violence on our society, despite being such a huge amount,” Corso said. HELP FOR VICTIMS

Silva, 45, who is disabled from a previous medical condition, is still fearful a year after she was terrorized by her roommate, Jody Ann Urbanek, who was recently sentenced to 17 years in prison. Silva said Urbanek beat her with a movie poster frame, threatened her with a knife and locked her in her bathroom before stealing her car and blank checks.

Silva’s dog, Prudence, an expensive Cavalier King Charles spaniel similar to the one she bought last fall, has also has been missing since the attack. Now Silva’s house is rigged with a security system, purchased with help from her parents. An automated alarm system voice tells her if someone opens her windows or doors. The state, she said, paid more than $3,000 for medical expenses and continues paying for counseling every two weeks.

“I hate the fact that I live in fear now,” Silva said. “It basically has been in control of my life for a year now and I’m definitely ready to put it behind me and just get on with things.”

LASTING IMPACT

Gillespie, 54, said her family is still dealing with the aftermath of her sister’s murder five months ago. Her mother is going through post-traumatic stress disorder, including nightmares. The family gets help through the State Attorney’s Office and Hospice of Volusia/Flagler Counties, which provides free support groups for people who lose loved ones to homicide, suicide or accidents.

Gillespie’s nephew, who was attacked in the same home invasion and is the son of the murder victim, moved to live with out-of-town relatives.

“It touches everybody. I don’t think anyone escapes,” Gillespie said referring to extended family, neighbors and families of the suspects. “It hits you in ways and just about brings you to your knees.”

Burns was kicked and choked, family members say, by robbers who spent two hours ransacking their home and terrorizing Burns, her daughter, Uptagrafft, and 40-year-old grandson, Joel. Uptagrafft, who provided home health care to elderly adults, was abducted and her body found in west Flagler County.

Cornelius Baker, 20, and 19-year-old Patricia Roosa, who have pleaded not guilty, were indicted on first-degree murder and other charges. The state is seeking the death penalty for both.

Kimberly Beck-Frate, licensed mental health counselor for Hospice’s Trauma and Loss Program, said a victim’s family faces the trauma of someone dying violently and then grief, which can be even more traumatic six months to two years after someone dies.

“Our society doesn’t really support that,” Beck-Frate said. “People are there initially and then they say, ‘You need to get back on with your life.’ ”

Lea Lauer, 37, of Port Orange is on an extended leave from work since her 20-year-old nephew was charged with killing her mother, Linda Hummer, 59, in December. She tried going back, but it was too hard because her mother also worked at the same company. She’s received help from Hospice and the state for funeral and medical expenses.

“I’m trying to function as a mother and a person, and it’s not easy at all,” she said. “I never have days I want to hurt myself, but I just have days I feel depleted and defeated. I don’t know how to fix it, but maybe some day it will get better.”

STOPPING THE VIOLENCE

Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood agreed with national experts that more money should be spent on prevention. With criminals getting younger, he said efforts to stop violence should start in kindergarten.

“We’re seeing a proliferation of younger criminals who are immune to the effect of violence. They will shoot you as soon as look at you. There are no morals or values there,” Chitwood said.

The Domestic Abuse Council in Daytona Beach is educating children in elementary school that they are not the reason adults are fighting. Dating violence, control issues and signs of abuse are taught to teens.

About $1 million was allocated this year by lawmakers to help the 41 centers similar to the one in Daytona Beach add more programs.

“Hopefully, (children) will learn healthy ways to communicate with others as they get older,” said M.F. Warren, executive director of the local agency.

Then, she said, the cycle of violence can be broken.

COST BREAKDOWN

A recent study by an associate professor of the University of Georgia College of Public Health and economist at the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found violence costs the United States $70 billion annually, including $64.4 billion from lost productivity and $5.6 billion on medical care. That’s almost as much as the $80 billion for Hurricane Katrina, the author said. The study did not include prosecution, law enforcement and other costs dealing with family members of victims.

Other details of the study include:

• Americans suffer 2.2 million medically treated injuries a year due to interpersonal violence, such as homicide, child abuse and neglect, youth violence, domestic violence and other assaults at a cost of $37 million.

• Self-inflicted injuries (suicide and attempted suicide) cost $33 billion a year.

• People age 15 to 44 comprise 44 percent of the population, but account for nearly 75 percent of injuries and 83 percent of the costs of interpersonal violence.

• Nearly 17,000 annual homicides result in $22.1 billion in costs. The average cost per homicide was $1.3 million in lost productivity and $4,906 in medical costs.

• The average cost per case of suicide is $1 million in lost productivity and $2,596 in medical costs.

• The average cost of a non-fatal self-inflicted injury was $9,726 in lost productivity and $7,234 in medical costs.

SOURCE: University of Georgia College of Public Health

BY THE NUMBERS

The state Office of the Attorney General provides compensation each fiscal year to victims of violent crimes through state and federal funding. Here’s the breakdown:

$16.5 million provided to Florida crime victims

$757,326 received by crime victims in Volusia County

$95,403 received by crime victims in Flagler County

$395,376 cost last year of 496 uninsured patients at Halifax Medical Center emergency room injured by gun and knife assaults and fighting.