Unraveling Gun Violence Epidemics Using Network Science

Saturday, February 13, 2016: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Hoover (Marriott Wardman Park)
Andrew Papachristos, Yale University, New Haven, CT
The scientific community is increasingly examining how the social and behavioral connections among individuals affect what they feel, think, and do. Over the past two decades, the growing field of network science has examined how our social connections influence a range of phenomena including: who we marry, the things we buy, the votes we cast, the jobs we get, and even the health of our communities and families. This paper explores how network science can be used to understand the diffusion of gun violence within populations of high-risk co-offenders. Using six years of data on gunshot victimization and arrests in Chicago, this study reconstruct patterns of co-offending for the entire city and locate gunshot victims within these networks. Results indicate that 70 percent of all nonfatal gunshot victims during the observation period can be located in co-offending networks comprised of less than 6 percent of the city’s population. Findings suggest that as an individual’s exposure to gunshot victims increases, so too do that individual’s odds of being a victim. Even small amounts of exposure can dramatically increase the odds of victimization. In addition, shootings appear to “cascade” through networks over short and extended periods of time. The policy and programmatic implications of this research will also be discussed, as will emerging results from a quasi-experimental program using such a network approach.