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How Social Networks Explain Violence in Chicago

 How Social Networks Explain Violence in Chicago

What if you could predict your chances of being shot from your social network: who you know and how you know them? Turns out, maybe you can.

The Cornell Square Park shooting September 19, in which two men wounded 13 by firing indiscriminately into a public park, has added new urgency to the discussion about violent crime in Chicago. It's no secret that some parts of the city are much safer than others. As Noah Berlatsky pointed out last week, there's a strong racial and socioeconomic component to the geography of violent crime in Chicago. Those living on the city's South Side, where the shooting took place, face some of the highest violent crime and murder rates in the nation without, counterintuitively, any nearby hospital trauma unit to deal with the effects. At the same time, for those worried about being the victim of a violent crime, it's not as simple as some neighborhoods being "safe" and others being "unsafe."

Watch this video below, produced by NowThis News: Yale's Andrew Papachristos points out that, in the West Side of Chicago, almost all the residents share the "risk factors" for getting caught up in violent crime, and yet "most of the people in those communities don't get shot." The secret to understanding how violent crime spreads, he says, may lie in social network analysis (an idea also explored in The Atlantic's October issue). The analogy that will stay with you comes when Papachristos compares violence to a specifically bloodborne pathogen: You can't catch it from just anyone, he argues. Your relationship with the people involved matters.

Top image: Milos Dizajn/Shutterstock; Jose Luis Gonzales/Reuters

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

Heather Horn is an associate editor at The Atlantic. She is a former features editor and staff writer for The Atlantic Wire, and was previously a research assistant at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. All posts »

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