McDaniel, for instance, likely made the list in spite of his limited criminal background — misdemeanor arrests on suspicion of gambling, drug possession and domestic battery — because a childhood friend with whom he had once been arrested on a marijuana charge was fatally shot last year in Austin.
One of the great dilemmas in criminology—and its substantial overlap with public health issues—is developing strategies for the medium-term. Traditional law enforcement and programs like CeaseFire are largely short-term, highly-targeted strategies; pre-K, pre- and post-natal care, job programs, and so forth are long-term, broad strategies.
Social-network theory, as it develops, could provide a foundation for medium-term strategies, providing a map for how public services can flow along social connections. If almost half of a city’s homicide victims can be followed into a social community that’s at ten times the risk of the already high-risk geographical community they live in, it gives both the police and public-services a place to start.
And a place to start for gathering more data—as Papachristos points out, his analysis is limited to people doing bad things. Robert Sampson, the Harvard (by way of Chicago) sociologist, has done pioneering work, most recently in his book Great American City, showing how positive social networks reduce crime and improve public-health outcomes in socially-organized neighborhoods like Chatham. Another possible implication is figuring out what kinds of networks “inoculate” people from violence.
“If I had blue-sky data and a bunch of money, I would really treat it like an infectious disease. I would do what we did with AIDS in the ’80s and ’90s, which is where you find a case—someone gets shot—you flood that part of the network with services,” Papachristos says. “So, God forbid, you get shot, people show up–they learn about you, they check you in. What do you need? Oh, you have kids? Where are your kids, who’s watching them? What do they need? Are they in school? Do you need help?”
pjern: “Yet, there stood the female police commander at his front door with a stern message: if you commit any crimes, there will be major consequences. We’re watching you.”
The strategy calls for warning those on the heat list individually that further criminal activity, even for the most petty offenses, will result in the full force of the law being brought down on them. At the same time, police extend them an olive branch of sorts, an offer of help obtaining a job or of social services.
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