If you run with a bad crowd, statistically speaking, you'll get in trouble.
CeaseFire and The Interrupters reframed Chicago crime to study the idea of violence as a virus, and it’s become both a familiar metaphor and guide for real-world policy; “epidemic” is no longer just a scare word for homicide counts, it’s a conceptual frame.
But the epidemiology of violence is still in its infancy, and as with any dimly understood virus, people are irrationally afraid of it—fearful they could pick it up on public transportation or by wandering into anywhere it’s been known to spread. Is it airborne? What kind of contact do you need to pick it up? What does “risky behavior” entail when it comes to catching a bullet instead of catching a cold?
Andrew Papachristos, a Yale sociologist, Chicago native, and graduate of Loyola and the University of Chicago, has spent much of his career thus far chasing these lines of transmission, literally building up social networks of violence from the traces people leave in the criminal-justice system before they’re shot or killed.
It’s a theory in its early stages, one Papachristos likens to the kind of epidemiological work made famous in the early years of the AIDS crisis, as the method of transmission was reverse-engineered from what victims did and who they did it with—and suggests the possibility that the treatment could be similar, to “flood the network with services” with support when a person is at risk.