This post is also available in: heעברית (Hebrew)


Experts explain how data from social network maps, acoustic sensors and research can be used in the fight against gun violence.

The statistics on gun violence in the U.S. are staggering: One in three people know someone who has been shot, and on average, 32 Americans are murdered with guns every day.

Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans, which is ranked eighth highest in the country in 2013 for homicides, participated in a recent panel that queried how data, analytics and new technologies might combat America’s gun problem. He was joined, inter alia, by Andy Papachristos, a researcher and sociologist from Yale University.

To illustrate data’s emergent role, Papachristos spotlighted his research on city criminal networks that analyzed 3,700-plus “high-risk” individuals. Based on five years of police record data, Papachristos said Chicago – a city ranked highest for homicides at 413 deaths in 2013 – could attribute 85% of gun deaths and injuries to less than 4 percent of the city’s entire population (the other 15% of injuries and deaths were related to domestic violence and stray bullet killings).

iHLS Israel Homeland Security

Likewise, when mapped, the geographies of gun violence concentrated themselves in isolated pockets of the city, i.e. small neighborhoods with predominantly black populations.

Papachristos said the crime statistics were no anomaly. From Boston to Stockton, Calif., research showed Chicago was representative of a larger trend in the U.S. It was similarly noted that disparities in obesity, education and poverty could easily be mapped to the same impoverished areas.

“Anyone who’s looked at a crime map in any major city in this country has seen something like this, the really severe spatial concentration of violence in the same neighborhoods over long periods of time,” he said.

The new paradigm within his findings was how socially interconnected shooting victims are to one another, a behavior that Papachristos said could be leveraged by urbanists and social programs to confront violence. In collaboration with Nielsen Research, Papachristos hopes to develop an open source technology that will aid cities to map similar social networks.