In today's hard-pressed communities, a world of trouble awaits attention by public agencies. Precious few resources are available to respond. Thus, common sense dictates that public agencies stay focused on the problems that are central to their responsibilities; they should not stray into new areas. Thus, it is natural to think that criminal justice agencies should remain focused on crime control, and public health agencies on traditional public health concerns.
What this view overlooks, however, is that public health and criminal justice agencies share a common concern that is at the center of their respective responsibilities. Each community, consistent with its own responsibilities, must be intensely concerned about attacks by one citizen against another that produce physical injury (i.e., homicides, rapes, and aggravated assaults).
The criminal justice community must be concerned because these crimes are among the most important for the criminal justice system to address. The public health community must be concerned about such events because they damage the health status of the least advantaged in society.
Both public health and criminal justice communities initially concern themselves with the nature and magnitude of the injury that results from interpersonal violence. To a degree, the criminal justice community is directed to consider the magnitude of the injury by the provisions of criminal law. If a person dies as a result of a criminal attack, the offender is charged with homicide, murder, or manslaughter rather than aggravated assault.
Where the differences are not reflected in law, they are often reflected in formal administrative rules. New sentencing guidelines, for example, typically require judges to consider the extent of injury to the victims in deciding on an appropriate sentence for a given criminal offense (Nagel, 1990).
Where the differences are not reflected in either law or formal procedures, they nonetheless appear in informal practices. Prosecutors, for example, commonly rely on the "seven-stitch rule" to