Potential Victim of a Homicide? Check Your Crowd, and Social Network

Two frightening new studies : the closer one is socially to a homicide victim, the higher your chances of being shot, too. I suppose that makes sense.  If the people you hang with and around have guns, it's far more likely you'll be the victim of violence than a little old lady sitting in church.

"For every degree of separation from a victim, an individual would experience a 57 percent decrease in their odds of homicide victimization," newswise.com reports. "In addition 41 percent of all gun homicides occurred within less than 4 percent of the neighborhood’s population."

“By mapping the terrain within high-risk social networks and analyzing shooting patterns, network analysis offers a more direct road map for interventions," newswise.com quotes the study authors. The researchers argue against "sweeping policies and practices based on categorical distinctions such as gang membership or race," and, instead, focus on intervention and prevention efforts that consider "the observable and risky behavior of individuals.”

In another study, this one a little more disturbing, a person's social network predicts homicides more than race, gang affiliation and poverty, according to medicaldaily.com.

"When it comes to your risk of falling victim to gun violence, it turns out it’s both who you know and what you know," writes Chris Weller.

Weller reports that a new study has found that gun homicide victims most often die as a result of the people they keep in their social groups.

Says Yale University sociologist Andrew Papachristos and study co-author, "Generally, you can't catch a bullet from just anyone. Your relationship with the people involved matters.”

Weller notes that this new finding runs counter to the idea that "stray bullets are constantly ripping through windows in poor neighborhoods."

Crime is about “hot people,” not “hot spots,' Weller quotes Papachristos.

Papachristos studied police and gun homicide records within a six-square-mile zone on the west side of Chicago and found that six percent of the population accounted for 70 percent of the murders, and "nearly all of that six percent had prior run-ins with the criminal justice or public health system," according to Weller.

But here's the staggering part.  The group faced a 900 percent greater risk for becoming victims of gun homicide than the rest of the city’s population. This suggested to Papachristos, Weller says, that crime worked as a network.

If you don't hang out with a dangerous crowd, you're probably not going to be much affected by this.  But cops have been able to direct their resources toward this network idea, identifying those who are at highest risk for this kind of crime and targeting policing action toward protecting them.


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