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News Science

Murder Is Like a Disease (No, Really) 299

pigrabbitbear writes "With a homicide rate historically more than three times greater than the rest of the United States, Newark, N.J., isn't a great vacation spot. But it's a great place for a murder study (abstract). Led by April Zeoli, an assistant professor of criminal justice, a group of researchers at Michigan State University tracked homicides around Newark from 1982 to 2008, using analytic software typically used by medical researchers to track the spread of diseases. They found that "homicide clusters" in Newark, as researchers called them, spread and move throughout a city much the same way diseases do. Murders, in other words, did not surface randomly—they began in the city center and moved in 'diffusion-like processes' across the city."
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Murder Is Like a Disease (No, Really)

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  • Revenge killings? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by telchine ( 719345 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @07:59AM (#42190205)

    Does the study take into account gang culture and revenge killings?

  • by KrazyDave ( 2559307 ) <htcprog@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @08:09AM (#42190247) Homepage
    Murder is not the "disease", per se, but rather it is a symptom or outcome of other processes; namely, economic downturns that manifests themselves in lost jobs, lost homes, broken families, substance abuse and the ensuing and inevitable upturn in desperation and violence,
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @08:27AM (#42190347)

    The problem is that they're right.

    I'm a Brit, and a strong supporter of the firearms laws we have here that limit the spread of guns (as in making sure the legal owners secure them and keep track of them so that they aren't "lost" into the black market). This only works because we have a low level of gun ownership to start with.

    In the US the situation is radically different, and not just because of the culture. There are almost as many guns as people there, with such a vast number untracked that disarming the entire country is simply not going to happen. If you tried to apply our laws to their country, all it would achieve is to annoy the legal owners of firearms without making the slightest difference on the availability of guns on the black market.

    Once you already have so many weapons around, the damage is already done. It's too late to stop it. At that point, you might as well accept reality and let people try to defend themselves against it.

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:01AM (#42190569) Homepage Journal

    Of MSNBC's race card.

    Its more likely this is actually modelling the passage of a new batch of guns through the criminal underworld.

    I always find it hailarious that you in the states cite the ability to own firarms as something that keeps you safe when your obscenely high murder rate points to the opposite in my opinion.

    Check Vermont, you fucking idiot. It has quite possibly the most relaxed gun laws in the country, and is always in the top 5 states for least amount of crime, and usually top 3 for least amount of murders.

    That pattern goes far beyond Vermont, too. Look at the Brady Campaign rankings of states by gun laws, and you see an almost perfect correlation between strong gun laws and violence. The states with the least restrictive laws have the least violence. Now, that could be because places with lots of violence react by passing strong gun laws, but the studies on the effect of shall-issue concealed carry laws (laws that require the state to issue concealed carry permits to anyone who doesn't have a criminal record) shows a fairly clear and consistent, if small, decrease in the crime rate when more guns are on the street in the hands of law-abiding citizens.

    My guess is that the explanation for the results of this study is gang warfare, a cycle of revenge killings fed and funded by the illegal drug trade. But I've believed for years that the biggest thing we could do to reduce violence in this country is to end the useless, ineffective and counterproductive war on drugs, and I like guns (I'm a concealed carry instructor), so it's not surprising that my view tracks closely with my opinions.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:07AM (#42190599)

    Many years ago, I visited the NRA office in Washington DC. They quoted a lot of statistics about other countries that had high gun ownership rates and low murder rates.

    Did they say anything about correlations with other crimes? I've got a pet theory that most gun homicides are drug related and that if we took those out of the totals, the stats for the USA wouldn't be all that different from those in other countries.

    But, so far, I haven't been able to find anywhere on the web that breaks down the number of gun homicides in a way that would lend itself to that sort of analysis. I've got a pet theory about that too - that the stereotypical NRA crowd is also big-time pro-war-on-drugs and the anti-war-on-drugs people are stereotypically anti-gun. So the two biggest groups on both sides aren't interested in seeing their pet causes in contradiction.

  • by Ash Vince ( 602485 ) * on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:14AM (#42190631) Journal

    Yes this makes perfect sense. Look at all the places that ban handguns like Chicago, DC, and London. No murders going on there, that's for sure.

    There are far fewer murders in London than similar sized cities in the US. This quote has lots of stats that all seem fairly accurate even though it is a shit source:
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100128231404AAGurXl [yahoo.com] (I would find a better one but my lunch break is nearly over, so don't really have time)

    Not sure about Chicago but the difference is that in Chicago you can just bring a gun into the city from outside as there is no border to speak of so it is probably still pretty easy for a criminal to get a gun if they want one. In the UK we do still have a border that is policed by customs who do their best to stop weapons being smuggled in. That does not mean we have no guns in criminal hands but it does make it harder to get hold of one, even if only marginally.

    We also have a law that means if you are caught with a firearm it is almost a certainty you will spend the next couple of years in prison. That seriously discourages gun ownership amongst all but the most hardened of criminals. In the US the social acceptability of gun ownership even in the cities you mention where it is ilegal is still a factor that you have to consider. Would a pot dealer in Chicago get an extra 5 years on his sentence just because the police found a unloaded gun in the back of a drawer somewhere when the raided him like in the UK?

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:26AM (#42190713)

    unless you're libertarian... but I doubt we'll find any of those around here.

  • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:32AM (#42190775)

    what obscenely high murder rates? your popular perception has little to do with reality. rates are down, and have been going down for years. crime, including homicide, in the US is at quite possibly the lowest point in the country's entire history.

    but dont let that stop you from making your stupid american comments for an instant +5 insightful.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:36AM (#42190807) Homepage

    I never really thought that was not understood.

    We want to save money, for example. In business, we want to lose less money so, in food production, they add preservatives or use ingredients with longer shelf lives. The consequence of this falls to the consumer and back to society as a whole as it deals with increases in health problems such as diabetes. The "blame" is on the individual but also on society but also on the suppliers who make these decisions... because they want to save money.

    We want to earn a living, as another example. When the establishment doesn't wish to allow outsiders to participate in the market, markets of other colors are born and developed.... you know, like grey and black markets. ALL markets of all colors and tones require defense and enforcement. The white markets are supported, defended and enforced by the established government. The other markets use other means and most often, by gangs and the like.

    The development of organized crime which I described above also has other negative impacts on society. Among these are the glorification of the lifestyle in art. We see it every day through our comical portrayal of pirates [the high seas, wooden ship variety] and we see it in more modern ways as well. But the crimes against people afftected by unregulated (and even regulated) killing and other violence takes its toll on the hearts and minds of the people who live among these events. As death and killing becomes more frequent and more expected, the notion of defending one's self with deadly force becomes increasingly more acceptable. And the very definition of "defense" also twists itself into convenient shapes to suit the motivations and interests of those doing the killing and violence.

    We have all sorts of behaviors which require regulation. The restriction or limitation of market participation, for example, leads to crime. We saw it in alcohol prohibition. We saw it in religious freedom restrictions. We see it today with more contemporary drugs. But we are also seeing it in other markets as well. The content publication industry finds itself incredibly threatened by digital technologies in that there is no medium to hold the content and therefore they aren't exactly a publication in the classical sense of the word. But nevertheless, we see the same patterns... government support, defense and enforcement. And it most certainly stems from the few trying to hold onto their territory and to prevent others from participating in the markets they have controlled.

    To say murder is "like a disease" is to fail to see the over-all pattern of human behaviors... the causes which lead to effects which lead to more causes and more effects. Of course that comparison begins to break down somewhat when you determine which disease(s) murder is most similar to and which it is not though the generalities tend to hold true. But the root cause of both disease and of murder is human behavior and human nature.

    Human nature is best overcome by law and regulation. It is really as simple as that. If someone says "what about God?!" Then you are simply saying "religious law" instead of just law.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:40AM (#42190829)
    people in intense poverty, with no hope of escape, and virtually no access to mental health services are a little more prone to violence.

    Man, I wish it was my job to gather pointless stats of the obvious.
  • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:46AM (#42190867)

    How else would you explain why Greece (which undeniably had a much worse economic crisis) has a lower murder rate than the USA?

    -Vastly smaller population
    -More homogenous population/culture
    -Different culture
    -Lack of gangs and drug cartels from around the world
    -Fewer people in poverty and smaller gap between have/have nots.

    But we're all exactly the same right? Cause differences dont matter....

    that said, it has nothing to do with an economic downturn or cultural response to it. you people are extrapolating string theory from someones random observation about apples falling. it's a simple study of one city, one with a traditionally higher than average crime rate..it's Jersey. what do you expect? No one likes Jersey. Seriously though. We dont go grab our guns and kill people because of recessions. That's a BS line of thought. People with the economic means (or incentive like a job) to leave a bad place for a good place tend to do so. This leaves behind a population of people without said means. Said people have a disproportionately higher crime rate. It's like having a weak solution of acid, nearly harmless by volume, and concentrating it by evaporating off the water til a single drop will melt your face off.

  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:51AM (#42190909)

    Doesn't the U.K. have a "knife crime" problem. Hence the seemingly ridicules laws about carrying edged weapons?

    I carry my Buck Knife (3" blade) everywhere with me. It's a tool. But I believe that could land me in jail in the U.K.?

    Please confirm or refute.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @11:02AM (#42191715)

    Say what? That people kill people with guns? Of course you can.

    What we object to is trying to makes laws designed so criminals can have guns but normal people can't. Those don't make sense, and they don't work.

  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @11:42AM (#42192155) Homepage Journal

    Fact is, it's harder to kill someone with a knife than a gun.

    Not really...it is just a bit more intimate doing it with a knife....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @12:35PM (#42192725)

    It's worth noting that Newark, New Jersey already has pretty strict gun control laws. They just don't work. It's the same story for any US city with high murder rates, and always has been. Very strict (often unconstitutional) gun laws, zero benefit.

    If anyone actually cared about solving high murder rates and other violent crime they'd deal with issues of poverty. But that's a hard problem without an easy, obvious legislative fix. That's not the sort of difficult message that gets people [re]elected. Voters want to hear that you've got a complete fix, on paper, that will make their problems go away, at no cost to them.

    It's little more than security theater as a political game, with unfortunate side effects.

Basic is a high level languish. APL is a high level anguish.