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New research reveals infectious disease model for homicide

idd-350x276New research in Chicago finds that homicide victims are concentrated among a tiny network. Tracing that network might lead to public health measures to protect would-be victims.


Visit any city and people are going to tell you that some parts of town are at higher risk for crime. That’s a bad neighborhood, they might say; there’s more gun violence there, more assaults, more homicides. And if you look at statistics ZIP code by ZIP code, that seems to be true. But there’s new research that suggests we are not really seeing what’s going on. NPR’s social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam joins us each week on the program. He’s here with some new research about Chicago. Hi, Shankar.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK. So what are we missing when we think about high-crime neighborhoods?

VEDANTAM: You know, we might be missing the wood for the trees, Steve. So take Chicago, for example, in the example you just gave about the ZIP codes. If you visit the website of a newspaper, like The Chicago Tribune, it will tell you that you have a high risk of becoming a victim of violent crime if you live in a neighborhood such as Washington Park or Fuller Park. But not everyone in these neighborhoods is actually equally at risk for becoming a victim of violent crime. I spoke with Andrew Papachristos. He’s a sociologist at Yale, and along with Christopher Wildeman, he found the real risk doesn’t lie at the level of neighborhoods, but at the level of a network with in the neighborhood. Here he is.

Click here to read more from this October 9, 2014 NPR story by .

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