Is Gun Violence Contagious? A Spatiotemporal Test

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Is Gun Violence Contagious? A Spatiotemporal Test

Category: Homicide, Injury|Journal: Journal of Quantitative Criminology|Author: C Loeffler, S Flaxman|Year: 2018

Objectives

Existing theories of gun violence predict stable spatial concentrations and contagious diffusion of gun violence into surrounding areas. Recent empirical studies have reported confirmatory evidence of such spatiotemporal diffusion of gun violence. However, existing space/time interaction tests cannot readily distinguish spatiotemporal clustering from spatiotemporal diffusion. This leaves as an open question whether gun violence actually is contagious or merely clusters in space and time. Compounding this problem, gun violence is subject to considerable measurement error with many nonfatal shootings going unreported to police.

 

Methods

Using point process data from an acoustical gunshot locator system and a combination of Bayesian spatiotemporal point process modeling and classical space/time interaction tests, this paper distinguishes between clustered but non-diffusing gun violence and clustered gun violence resulting from diffusion.

 

Results

This paper demonstrates that contemporary urban gun violence in a metropolitan city does diffuse in space and time, but only slightly.

 

Conclusions

These results suggest that a disease model for the spread of gun violence in space and time may not be a good fit for most of the geographically stable and temporally stochastic process observed. And that existing space/time tests may not be adequate tests for spatiotemporal gun violence diffusion models.

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