Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Social risks of homicide

I keep saying, and generally get ignored, that your greatest risks are the people you know.  The only time that there is a consistent risk from strangers is during open and organized warfare.  Acts of terror, and rampage killings are certainly terrifying, but aren't particularly large in numbers.

Social networks and risk of homicide victimization in an African American Community
Andrew V. Papachristos, Christopher Wildeman, Yale University, 9 September 2012 (Hat tip: MR)
Results indicate that the risk of homicide is highly concentrated within the study community: 41 percent of all gun homicides in the study community occurred within a social network containing less than 4 percent of the neighborhood’s population. Logistic regression models demonstrate that network-level indicators reduce the association between individual-level risk factors and the risk of homicide victimization, as well as improve overall prediction of individual victimization. In particular, social distance to a homicide victim is negatively and strongly associated with individual victimization: each social tie removed from a homicide victim decreases one’s odds of being a homicide victim by approximately 57 percent.
From page 5

Our hypothesis is that there is a strong association between one’s own risky behaviors and the risky behavior of one’s associates; the stronger that association—the socially closer one is to a homicide victim—the greater the influence on one’s own victimization. In this sense, homicide is socially contagious and associating with people engaged in risky behaviors—like carrying a firearm and engaging in criminal activities—increases the probability of victimization. Like needle sharing or unprotected sex in the spread of HIV, co-offending exposes an individual to situations, behaviors, and people that might elevate the probability of victimization in a way that simply being spatially close to a recent homicide may not.
Note that who you associate with is more important even than where you live.  While I think it is fair to say that living in a high crime area does expose you to more crime in general, the more extreme forms of crime still tend to be rather situational and personal in nature.

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