Taxi drivers most likely to be murdered at work, new UNC-CH research shows

June 06, 2000

CHAPEL HILL - Analysis of 15 years of on-the-job homicides in North Carolina shows taxi drivers are significantly more likely than others to be murdered at work, according to a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.

Workplace homicides are highest for men, older and self-employed workers and minorities, the study found. Robberies -- mostly in retail settings -- account for half the cases, while 20 percent involve disputes. Women are most likely to be killed by estranged partners.

The research, conducted at UNC-CH's School of Public Health and Injury Prevention Research Center, involved reviewing job-related killings across the state from 1977 to 1991. Detailed information, including narratives describing details of each case, came from the N.C. medical examiner's office.

A report on the findings appears in the June issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Authors are Drs. Kathryn E. Moracco, research assistant professor of health behavior and health education, and Carol W. Runyan, professor of health behavior and health education and director of the injury research center.

Others are Drs. Dana P. Loomis, associate professor of epidemiology, and John D. Butts, N.C. chief medical examiner and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the UNC-CH School of Medicine. Research associate Susanne H. Wolf of UNC-CH and former graduate student David Napp also helped with the research.

"We believe this study is unique in that it covered such a long time period, and we used medical examiner narratives describing circumstances surrounding the homicides and relationships between perpetrators and victims," Moracco said. "That kind of rich detail is not available in previous studies using just death certificates."

By dividing cases into categories based on facts surrounding the homicides, investigators found that while many similarities existed within groups, differences among groups were substantial.

"That suggested that we're going to need different intervention strategies to help prevent different kinds of homicides and gave us some useful clues in terms of prevention," Moracco said. "In other words, one size doesn't fit all when it comes to stopping these cases."

Researchers identified 375 N.C. deaths from homicide in the workplace during the 15 years studied and, after excluding cases for various reasons, compiled a final study group of 361. That total represented 14 percent of all fatal occupational injuries and 3.6 percent of all N.C. homicides during the period. Analyses revealed that:
"Preventing violence against taxi drivers is particularly challenging," Moracco said. "Drivers tend to operate in urban areas, which have the highest crime rates, and work long hours, alone, often at night, carrying considerable amounts of cash on board, making them targets for robberies."

Requiring bulletproof partitions between front and back seats is the kind of strategy that may make a difference in protecting drivers, she said.

"Each year, between 750 and 1,000 people are killed while at work in the United States, making homicide second only to motor vehicles as a cause of occupational injury death," Moracco said. "Homicide is the leading cause of on-the-job deaths for women nationally and for all workers in at least five states and Washington, D.C."

The National Workplace Safety Initiative has estimated that violence at work costs society more than $4 billion annually, she added. That figure likely is an underestimate since it does not include the strong psychological impact on victims' families and co-workers. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supported the research.
June 6, 2000 - No. 321
UNC-CH News Services

Note: Moracco can be reached at 919-966-0158.
UNC-CH School of Public Health Contact: Lisa Katz, 966-7467.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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