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Police Use 'Network Analysis' to Track Gangs

Police Use 'Network Analysis' to Track Gangs

A report in the Governing Magazine this summer covered the Chicago Police Department’s implementation of a new tool called “network analysis” used to map the relationships among Chicago’s 14,000 most active gang members. The tool ranks how likely gang members are to be involved in a homicide, either as victims or offenders. The tool is based on a risk analysis study by Chicago sociologist Andrew Papachritos. Papachristos grew up in the 1980s on the city’s North Side. His father, a Greek immigrant, ran a neighborhood diner that refused to pay gangs for protection and eventually was torched.

His study concluded that attempts to explain urban violence in terms of factors such as poverty and race did a disservice to most people in the highest-crime communities. Papachritos’ ethnographic studies uncovered that residents of even the poorest neighborhoods didn’t kill or commit violent crimes. Most gang members didn’t either. But when they did, it was often as members of a group. “These groups have agency. They have structure. And it’s not random. In fact, the big thing there was that they’re inheritable,” says Papachristos. Chicago’s crime rate is down 34% from the last year, for the first time since the 1960’s.


From The Police Chief, vol. LXXX, no. 10, October 2013. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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