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Can Murder Be Tracked Like An Infectious Disease?
NPR ^ | December 06, 2012 | SHANKAR VEDANTAM

Posted on 12/21/2012 1:26:44 PM PST by nickcarraway

If I asked you to think of a murderer, what's the image that springs to mind?

If you're like most people, you'll probably think of an evil psychopath, or someone bent on revenge. Perhaps you'll see a criminal mastermind, who eliminates rivals on his way to riches. Or a strung-out drug addict, who kills because she needs money to get high.

All of these images have something in common: As a rule, we tend to associate murder with the behavior of individuals who behave in aberrational ways.

"We think of individuals who commit homicide as being unlike the rest of us," said April Zeoli, a public health researcher at Michigan State University's School of Criminal Justice. "They are crazy, or substance users, or had a bad childhood. There is some reason specific to the individual that they are committing homicide."

Zeoli recently decided to test that theory using the lens of public health research: When scientists study the outbreak of an infectious disease like AIDS or the flu, they don't ask what it is about specific individuals that made them sick. They look for broader patterns, knowing that illness in any individual stems from a process of contagion.

Along with colleagues Jesenia M. Pizarro, Sue C. Grady and Christopher Melde, Zeoli asked whether homicide might follow the same principles of contagion.

"We looked at homicide as an infectious disease," Zeoli said in an interview. "To spread, an infectious disease needs three things: a source of the infection; a mode of transmission; and we need a susceptible population."

The researchers studied every homicide that occurred in the city of Newark, N.J., over a period of a quarter century, from January 1982 to September 2007. In all, Newark had seen 2,366 murders in that period, a rate of homicide some three times as high as that of the general U.S. population.

The researchers tracked down the time and location of every single murder. They plugged the data into a software program that has previously been used to track infectious diseases: When you put in the geographical location and the time of infection of each victim of the infectious disease, the program creates a model that shows how the epidemic is spreading — and where it might go next.

"We hypothesized that the distribution of this crime was not random, but that it moved in a process similar to an infectious disease, with firearms and gangs operating as the infectious agents," the researchers wrote in a paper they published in the journal Justice Quarterly.

The analysis showed that homicide spread through Newark very much like an infectious disease. The value of tracking murder in this fashion, Zeoli said, was not just to let police know where murder was happening — police already track hot spots and direct resources to those areas — but to make predictions about where homicide might spread next, based on the path of the epidemic.

Zeoli said that the model could make specific predictions about how and where homicide would spread in the future — information that could prove very valuable to police and other city officials.

Studying homicide via a broad public health lens, Zeoli added, also allowed researchers to identify positive outliers: "We actually had some areas within Newark that were resistant to homicide, despite being surrounded by areas with high homicide rates. So we need to investigate why those little islands exist."

To use the language of infectious disease research, Zeoli said, once researchers figure out what makes some neighborhoods "resistant" to homicide, despite having the same risk factors as areas with high homicide rates, policymakers could apply those insights to "inoculate" other areas in order to prevent homicide from spreading.


TOPICS: Science
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 12/21/2012 1:26:51 PM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Interesting.


2 posted on 12/21/2012 1:30:00 PM PST by expat2
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To: nickcarraway

Deeply associated with ‘rats packed together in ‘rat hellholes.


3 posted on 12/21/2012 1:34:20 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: nickcarraway
"We hypothesized that the distribution of this crime was not random, but that it moved in a process similar to an infectious disease, with firearms and gangs operating as the infectious agents,"

I don’t think firearms would be a suitable vector for homicide.

ADC welfare payments might be a better predictor.

"We looked at homicide as an infectious disease," Zeoli said in an interview. "To spread, an infectious disease needs three things: a source of the infection; a mode of transmission; and we need a susceptible population."

Considering that homicide occurs more frequently in minority neighborhoods there might be something there to suggest susceptibility.

4 posted on 12/21/2012 1:37:06 PM PST by Pontiac (The welfare state must fail because it is contrary to human nature and diminishes the human spirit.)
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To: Pontiac
ADC welfare payments might be a better predictor.

Yup. Look for the welfare recipients, and you'll find the fatherless children. There you will find the crucible of sociopaths. How many children of single *fathers* will you find killing other children?

5 posted on 12/21/2012 1:47:13 PM PST by Cyber Liberty (Obama considers the Third World morally superior to the United States.)
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To: Paladin2

So now it is OK profile. Good!!!


6 posted on 12/21/2012 1:49:53 PM PST by w1andsodidwe (Barrak has now won the contest. He is even worse than Jimmah.)
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To: Cyber Liberty

Yup, you correctly guessed my point.

You get a cookie.


7 posted on 12/21/2012 1:51:01 PM PST by Pontiac (The welfare state must fail because it is contrary to human nature and diminishes the human spirit.)
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To: Pontiac

It didn’t require the use of an abacus to figure that one out...lol


8 posted on 12/21/2012 1:53:26 PM PST by Cyber Liberty (Obama considers the Third World morally superior to the United States.)
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To: nickcarraway
"If I asked you to think of a murderer, what's the image that springs to mind?"

0bama supporter?

Owns an 0phone?

Learned to expect stuff from 0bama's stash immediately?

9 posted on 12/21/2012 2:05:11 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: nickcarraway

““Gang members and those who live criminal lifestyles may be uniquely susceptible [to homicide perpetration],” the researchers state, citing previous research that indicates that gang homicide rates are up to 100 times that of the broader population.”


10 posted on 12/21/2012 2:09:40 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: nickcarraway
"Study findings include:

Homicides were initially confined to the Central Ward section of the city but spread to Newark’s West and South Wards. Firearm homicides spread throughout the West Ward and the western portion of the South Ward, and gang-related homicides from the lower section of the Central Ward and outwards to the upper Central Ward as well as the West and South Wards.

Gang-related homicides were concentrated in areas of the city already suffering from higher-than-average homicide rates before they spread to adjacent areas.

Approximately two-thirds of homicide victims and over three-quarters of offenders were African-American males from 26 to 30 years old.

“Of the 20 overall homicide clusters… 75% of them have a population that is over 60% African-American and, in the census tract [center] of 70% of the clusters, over 20% of the residents live below the poverty line.”

In Newark there is a small census tract flanked by areas with high levels of gang activity that reported no gang-related homicides during the study period. The North and East Wards, which have remained relatively immune to the elevated homicide rates of adjacent wards, are comparatively wealthy and home to a lower percentage of African-Americans."

11 posted on 12/21/2012 2:11:48 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: Paladin2
In Newark there is a small census tract flanked by areas with high levels of gang activity that reported no gang-related homicides during the study period. The North and East Wards, which have remained relatively immune to the elevated homicide rates of adjacent wards, are comparatively wealthy and home to a lower percentage of African-Americans."

It's not the fact that they're black that causes the high crime rate. It's the culture. The poverty culture even without the element of race injected is toxic enough; add in all the race-hustlers, and the culture becomes radioactive. The reason the more wealthy areas have fewer blacks is because there is considerable pressure on poor blacks not to leave those toxic environments.

It's a horrible situation, but how do we fix it? The fact that politicians (mostly of one particular party) use those people to accrue their own power and are very adept at it makes it an extremely difficult problem to solve.

12 posted on 12/21/2012 2:39:42 PM PST by exDemMom (Now that I've finally accepted that I'm living a bad hair life, I'm more at peace with the world.)
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To: exDemMom
"It's a horrible situation, but how do we fix it?"

Send them to Bermuda for their education?

13 posted on 12/21/2012 2:42:06 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: nickcarraway

I expect homicide here does not refer to the occasional killing unfaithful spouses etc. Rather it probably refers to the tribal warfare happening in ‘minority’ areas.


14 posted on 12/21/2012 2:43:48 PM PST by LastNorwegian
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To: exDemMom
"African-Americans." It's not the fact that they're black"

Note that there are quite a number of African-Americans who are white; Notably JF'nK's wife.

15 posted on 12/21/2012 2:44:10 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: nickcarraway

If you follow this train of thought; the one thing that can effectively treat both infective and contagious disorders, it is to create an effective and permanent quarantine. Also prevent it procreation.


16 posted on 12/21/2012 3:17:11 PM PST by Minutemantek (VETERAN & FREE THINKER)
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To: Pontiac
"We hypothesized that the distribution of this crime was not random, but that it moved in a process similar to an infectious disease, with firearms and gangs operating as the infectious agents,"
I don’t think firearms would be a suitable vector for homicide.
Considering the large ratio between the number of guns to the number of murders, guns might better be considered a symptom of crime, rather than a vector of it.

Just as a high white blood cell count is indicative of infection . . .

Studying homicide via a broad public health lens, Zeoli added, also allowed researchers to identify positive outliers: "We actually had some areas within Newark that were resistant to homicide, despite being surrounded by areas with high homicide rates. So we need to investigate why those little islands exist."
First thing to look at might be the amount of surveillance against crime, and the kind/number of armed men (whether police officers or others) who can be expected to respond to crime in the area.

17 posted on 12/21/2012 3:44:44 PM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion (The idea around which “liberalism" coheres is that NOTHING actually matters except PR.)
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To: exDemMom
It's not the fact that they're black that causes the high crime rate. It's the culture.

Absolutely. Here's an eye opening read: Life at the Bottom

18 posted on 12/21/2012 5:39:45 PM PST by pa_dweller (Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves:... Isa 1:23)
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To: pa_dweller
Absolutely. Here's an eye opening read: Life at the Bottom

Yes. I was raised in the poverty culture. It took a lot of reflection and attitude examination to recognize and reject it, tenet by tenet. Hence my screen name.

19 posted on 12/21/2012 8:54:47 PM PST by exDemMom (Now that I've finally accepted that I'm living a bad hair life, I'm more at peace with the world.)
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To: exDemMom

Per the book, few make it out. Congratulations on your escape.


20 posted on 12/21/2012 10:04:00 PM PST by pa_dweller (Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves:... Isa 1:23)
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To: Cyber Liberty

Exactly...the disease is socialism, the symptom is murder.


21 posted on 12/21/2012 10:18:42 PM PST by willyd (Don't shoot, we're Republicans!)
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