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Virginia Violent Death Reporting System

Background | Key Activities, Data Findings and Accomplishments | Partners | Reports and Publications | Links | Data Requests | Contacts


Beginning in 2003, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner implemented the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) in Virginia.  The NVDRS is a public health data collection system designed to better understand the breadth and scope of fatal violence and its victims and to support data driven violence prevention efforts.  The NVDRS links information in six types of violent deaths – homicides, suicides, accidental firearm deaths, legal interventions, deaths due to acts of terrorism, and undetermined deaths likely related to violence – using a variety of death investigation sources such as forensic pathology, law enforcement, forensic science, and vital records.

The Virginia Violent Death Reporting System (VVDRS) is the operation and reporting system of the NVDRS within Virginia, and uses the methodology, definitions, coding schema, and database of the NVDRS.  Funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and operating now in 32 states, the goal of the NVDRS is to establish a national violent death surveillance system.  Virginia was among the first six states to implement the NVDRS, and the first statewide medical examiner system to do so.

Key Activities

  • Compiling information sources from violent death investigations and correlating victims with circumstances such as mental illness, intimate partner violence, and other issues that contribute to violent death.
  • Assisting government and other policy makers in their efforts to understand the extent of violence in Virginia, to develop public health interventions, and to evaluate violence prevention program efforts.
  • Educating the general public about types and characteristics of violent death.
  • Generating timely, useful, and detailed information about violent death events at the local and state levels.
  • Helping to develop and inform injury and violence prevention efforts.

Data Findings

  • In Virginia, there are an average of 916 suicides and 380 homicides per year; that means that for every homicide, there are 2.4 suicides each year.  While suicides have increased over the past 10 years, homicides have decreased.

Suicide Numbers and Rates by Year, Virginia: 2003-2012

Homicide Numbers and Rates by Year, Virginia: 2003-2012

  • Suicide decedents are primarily male (77%) and White (87%), with a median age of 46.  The risk of suicide generally increases with age.  Firearms are the most common method of fatal injury (56%).  Urban and metropolitan areas are most commonly where suicides occur, but rural areas have the highest rates of suicide. 
  • The events and conditions that lead to suicide are complex, but common issues include mental health problems (55%), a recent life crisis (38%), conflict with intimate partners (34%), abuse of alcohol and/or other substances (28%), and physical health problems (19%).
  • Homicide decedents are primarily male (76%) and Black (60%), with a median age of 29.  Generally, the risk for homicide increases until the ages of 20-24, then declines again.  Firearms are the most common method of fatal injury (70%).  Urban areas have the highest numbers and rate of homicides.

Suicide and Homicide Rates by Age Group, Virginia: 2003-2012

  • Homicides are most frequently related to general arguments (43%), intimate partner violence (27%), and as a by-product of other crimes (e.g., robbery, burglary) (26%).


  • VVDRS is documenting the public health burden of suicide, homicide, and unintentional firearm deaths in Virginia, noting populations and communities at risk, as well as critical characteristics of and precursors to fatally violent events.
  • VVDRS reveals that middle aged white males are most at risk for suicides and that circumstances surrounding a completed suicide are nuanced and vary over the life course.  For instance, relationship problems and substance use problems are important early in the life span, while health concerns are more common among older adults. 
  • VVDRS has provided a clearer public health picture of homicide in the Commonwealth, particularly as it is relates to populations such as the homeless, homicide in the workplace, and homicide among persons in legal custody.  Like suicide, populations at risk and the circumstances surrounding homicide vary by age, by race, and by gender. 
  • By generating county and city specific violent death profiles, VVDRS data are being used at the state and local level to inform suicide prevention planning and response strategies.
  • VVDRS has been recognized by the CDC as among the strongest violent death surveillance programs in the country.  


The following collaborative partners support the efforts of the VVDRS through resource and information sharing:

Reports and Publications

I. Suicide

Women and Suicide in Virginia
Published:  February, 2105

Suicide and Placement for Nursing Home or Hospice Care in Virginia
Published:  February, 2014

Elder Suicide in Virginia: 2003-2010
Published:  March, 2013

Military-Related Suicide in Virginia: 2003-2010
Published: October, 2012

Physical Health Problems and Suicide in Virginia: 2007-2010
Published: July, 2012

Suicide Trends in Virginia: 2003-2010
Published: May, 2012

Suicide Among College Students in Virginia:  2003-2008
Published:  November, 2011

Suicide and Criminal Legal Problems in Virginia: 2007-2008
Published: September, 2011

Suicide in the Eastern Health Planning Region: 2003-2008 (PowerPoint presentation)
Presented: June 15, 2011

Suicide in the Northern Health Planning Region: 2003-2008 (PowerPoint presentation)
Presented: June 6, 2011

Suicide in the Central Health Planning Region: 2003-2008 (PowerPoint presentation)
Presented: June 1, 2011

Suicide in the Northwest Health Planning Region: 2003-2008 (PowerPoint presentation)
Presented: May 24, 2011 and May 25, 2011

Suicide in the Southwest Health Planning Region: 2003-2008 (PowerPoint presentation)
Presented: May 10, 2011 and May 11, 2011

Suicide Methods in Virginia:  Patterns by Race, Gender, Age, and Birthplace
Published: April, 2011

Alcohol Consumption Before Fatal Suicides
Published: August, 2010

Poison-Related Attempted and Completed Suicides in Virginia: 2003-2006
Published: September, 2009

Suicide and Mental Health in Virginia: 2003-2007 (PowerPoint presentation)
Presented: June, 2009

Final Exit: What Type of Suicide Victim Seeks Guidance?
Published: February, 2009

Suicides of Children in Virginia
Published: May, 2008

II. Violent Death

Homelessness and Violent Death
Published:  October, 2013

Violent Death in Custody: 2003-2010
Published: February, 2013

Violent Death in the Workplace
Published: November, 2012

The Geography of Violent Death in Virginia:  2003-2008
Published:  November, 2011

Deaths from Violence:  A Look at 17 States
Published:  December, 2008

Violent Death in Virginia: 2006
Published: April, 2008

III. Homicide

Homicide Across the Life Course
Published:  October, 2013

Substance Use and Violence
Published: December, 2008

IV.  Unintentional Firearm Death

Unintentional Firearm Deaths in Virginia, 2003-2006
Published: December, 2007


Data Requests

Thank you for your interest in this project. Are you seeking information about violent death in Virginia or in a Virginia city or county? We can help provide you with valuable information tailored to your specific needs. Contact Marc Leslie, the VVDRS Coordinator by phone (804-205-3855), email (, or by typing your request into the space below.  Please note that we do not provide information about individual cases.

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For more information, data requests, questions, and comments, contact:
Marc Leslie
VVDRS Coordinator
(804) 205-3855

Last Updated: 02-18-2015

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