Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Murder Is Like a Disease (No, Really)

Comments Filter:
  • one hypothesis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@nosPAM.hackish.org> on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @07:54AM (#42190185)

    If most murders are drug-related, this could be modeling the spread of drug markets by proxy.

  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @08:25AM (#42190325) Homepage

    Or rather, the way American culture deals with economic downturns.
    How else would you explain why Greece (which undeniably had a much worse economic crisis) has a lower murder rate than the USA?(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate)

    Realistically though, I doubt murder rate can be so easily explained. There are many factors involved, one of which is economics.

  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:05AM (#42190593)

    It's helpful to people planning morge, hospital, and police resources. Making sure that your manpower is ready for clusters of murders and have the tools to handle the dead, injured, and evidence is useful. It's also useful to the communities to realize and have hard numbers to back up their needs for containment of such dangerous events, and to help them innoculate against the outbreak spreading by education and community outreach.

    CDC vectoring tools would seem to be potentially useful. What is the timetable of such "outbreaks" ? Are control efforts better spent on dealing on each outbreak, as it occurs, or on broader "innoculation" via employment programs and drug rehabiliation?

  • by partiklehead ( 2425806 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:12AM (#42190619) Journal
    In the book "Connected" by Christakis and Fowler, it is argued that violence (but also hapiness, depression, etc) spreads through social networks. So if a friend of your friend was involved in either side of a murder, chances increase dramatically that you will, too. Your emotional states and their associated beliefs and actions are contagious, first and foremost to those around you that know you, then those who know them, and so on. The analogy with a disease, jumping from host to host through social networks, is quite adequate.
  • by sgtrock ( 191182 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @10:12AM (#42191139)

    Well, that's the problem with stereotypes, isn't it? They have such little basis in reality.

    While I'm not a member of the NRA, I've been around guns and owned guns all my life. My dad gave me my first shotgun when I was 12. Over the past 40-some years I've managed to collect a couple of pistols, 5 shotguns and 3 rifles without really thinking about it. I think I'm pretty typical of any guy who grew up in a rural area in a country with halfway sane gun laws.

    I was also taught that the War on Drugs was a joke. My dad was a member of the Minnesota branch of the National Education Association (teacher's union for those outside the U.S.) and his district's perennial delegate to the annual state convention. He spoke in favor of a resolution backing the legalization of marijuana in the early or mid '70s. (The motion passed, by the way.)

    He said then that the war on drugs (which was just heating up at the time) was a waste of resources. He didn't see the point in criminalizing an activity with such a demonstrably small impact on society. Instead, he advocated legalizing it and treating it the same as alcohol or tobacco.

    His attitude was a fairly common one then, and I think still is up here in Upper Midwest. We like to party and we like our guns. Those of us who have been raised around guns know the two don't mix. ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @11:53AM (#42192275)

    /me shakes head in disbelief.

    I've lived in many countries, including the US, and ambition in "welfare states" is not lower: you get born with a fixed amount of ambition and your social circumstances have only a small effect on it.

    What is lower in "welfare states" is misery.

  • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @12:08PM (#42192463)
    Yes. I found it interesting when I was talking to the owner of a cannon at a Civil War recreation event about the legality of his cannon ownership. He explained to me that owning a cannon is perfectly legal as it's lack of rifling meant that it was not classified as a "gun".

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur