Study tracks 30 years of Newark murders as ‘infectious disease’

Homicides in Newark have spread through the city over the past 30 years like an infectious disease and can be tracked and treated like a public health issue with prevention, inoculation and treatment, according to a study by Michigan State University.

1180 Raymond Blvd., Newark, NJ

The study, among the first to track murder through the lens of medical research, is part of a widening trend among local leaders and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to treat violent crime like a medical condition.

Newark native Jesenia Pizarro and April Zeolis, professors of criminal justice at Michigan State, analyzed the 2,366 homicides that occurred in Newark between 1982 to 2008 and tracked how and where they spread throughout the city.

Their report, titled “Homicide as Infectious Disease,” said the clusters originated in the Central Ward and moved south and west. Like other diseases, homicide clusters have a source, a mode of transmission and a susceptible population, the report said, indicating the violence erupted in the city’s high-rise housing complexes, and spread south and west as those complexes were destroyed, and poverty spread throughout the city.

map of crime areas in Newark“Many diseases have been tracked in this way, including most prominently cancer clusters,” Zeoli said in an interview.

The research bolsters efforts by local leaders to combat crime outside of law enforcement.

“I just think that, nationally, people are beginning to recognize the kind of inter-relatedness of dealing with violence,” said South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka, who has long called for violence to be dealt with not just by police, but with a battery of social services. “We can outline exactly where the crimes take place and we know every demographic about the people in the area.”

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