Tragic But Not Random: Andrew Papachristos on Gun Violence

I first heard Andrew Papachristos, a sociologist at Yale University, present on networks of co-offenders in Chicago at the American Society of Criminology meetings in 2013. At the time I was blown away by his work, but it was a quick presentation and I wasn’t able to capture many of the details. Thankfully, I was browsing around the web recently preparing for a presentation I am making on gun violence as a health disparity and I came across a video of a presentation Papachristos made to the Illinois Academy of Criminology.

Andrew Papachristos.jpeg In this video, as in all of his work, Papachristos documents that gun violence is often tragic but it is rarely random. Gun violence is concentrated among certain people and in certain places. In Boston, 50% of gun violence takes place on just 3% of streets.

Moreover, like a blood borne disease, gun violence travels within social networks. In Boston, 85% of gunshot injuries took place in a network of just 6% of the population. In Chicago, 41% of homicides take place in a network of just 4% of the population.

Papachristos’s work is more than a scientific gloss on the old saw to not go stupid places or do stupid things with stupid people, though the work does reinforce that wisdom.

Watching this 30 minute video is probably the most beneficial 30 minutes I have spent this week. Enjoy!



  1. I know Andy very well. He was going to present a paper at a gun violence conference we are doing in December but decided to go to Greece and visit with the relatives instead. Of course his research also pokes holes in the NRA’s favorite canard about the importance of using a gun for self-defense since the only people who need to carry a gun for self-defense are the people that Papachristos studies, not the White guy living in some small town who thinks he’s going to be the victim of a crime, even if he isn’t.


  2. Hey David,
    You don’t really mean “victories” — right?

    “In Boston, 85% of gunshot victories took place in a network of just 6% of the population.”


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