Evolution of Urban Homicide Dynamics 1870-Present

This NSF-funded project will describe and explain historical change in the location and prevalence of homicide in three U.S. cities from 1870 to the present. Through a massive digitizing and geocoding effort, this project will create new measures to describe the geographic and temporal dynamics of homicide. This quantitative historical analysis will help determine whether homicide dynamics today are the continuation of a historical pattern or product of recent political-economic changes. Data come from historical archives in Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco, with the potential of considering additional major cities. The VLP Lab is currently digitizing and geocoding archival materials to eventually use the data to examine research questions including but not limited to: A) what is a homicide wave? B) do events that erode community trust in police trigger homicide waves? C) do events that trigger sentiments of collective efficacy diminish homicide hotspots lifespan or rate-of-occurrence? 

This project will help cities improve network and place-based homicide prevention efforts by identifying the ideal timing and duration for law enforcement and social service interventions. Similarly, the identification of events that trigger homicide waves may help cities learn how to anticipate sudden increases in violence. Finally, the project will make use of a novel method for disseminating project findings to the greater public. Through collaborations with a data visualization scientist as well as local libraries in Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco, project findings will be shared with the public through displays of large maps visualizing change in historical homicide patterns. Project maps and data visualizations will be displayed in libraries and galleries in each city to spark greater public interest and awareness about homicide and the science of prevention.