Homicide spreads like the flu

MICHIGAN STATE (US) — Homicide moves through a community like an infectious disease, a finding that may help police track and even prevent murders.

Using Newark, New Jersey, as a pilot case, researchers successfully applied public health tracking methods to the city’s 2,366 homicides between 1982 and 2008 and found the killings weren’t randomly located but instead followed a pattern, evolving from the city’s center and moving southward and westward over time.

Like a flu bug that spreads to susceptible groups such as children and the elderly, homicide clusters in Newark—often fueled by gangs and guns—spread to areas consisting largely of poor and minority residents. Over time, the concentration of homicides effectively disappeared from one area and settled in another.

Newark has one of the highest murder rates in the United States. (Credit: G.L. Kohuth)

“By using the principles of infectious disease control, we may be able to predict the spread of homicide and reduce the incidence of this crime,” says April Zeoli, public health researcher in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University.

Published in the journal Justice Quarterly, the study is one of the first to use analytic software from the field of medical geography to track long-term homicide trends. The method can be done in real time which would allow police to identify emerging hotspots, Zeoli says.

The researchers also identified areas of Newark that had no homicide clusters during the 26-year time frame of the study, despite being surrounded by deadly violence.

“If we could discover why some of those communities are resistant,” Zeoli says, “we could work on increasing the resistance of our communities that are more susceptible to homicide.”

Criminal justice researchers Jesenia Pizarro and Christopher Melde and medical geographer Sue Grady contributed to the study.

Source: Michigan State University

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  1. Mark Duran

    That’s not too surprising. A lot of murder here in San Francisco, consists of retaliation murders between housing project gangs. If you think who’s doing most of the killing her in SF, it turns out to be a very narrow slice of our population. Mostly very poor young men between the ages of 15 and 25 that live in or near the projects. If that isn’t an inditement against warehousing people in industrial-age-style poorhouses, I don’t know what is.

  2. antoniocristovao

    Try give them jobs and education . The results will change more rapidly.

  3. alex

    Not all people are interested in education and giving out jobs to people who dont even work to work is not going to achieve much . Of course you could be referring to re-educating , forced labour camps for all gang-bangers . Then its probably going to work .

  4. alex

    *want* to work

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