Feb 12 2013
On the 10th floor of the University of Illinois’ school of public health, Dr Gary Slutkin points to a map of Chicago with dots showing where murders have taken place. Lake Michigan lies to the east, the north is mostly clear, but some areas of the south and the west, including Englewood, are covered in dots.
“It’s the same pattern on a map showing incidence of cholera in Bangladesh. It’s an infective process,” he says.
Slutkin, the managing director of Cure the Violence, is a doctor who specialises in infectious disease control and reversing epidemics who used to work for the World Health Organization. He thinks violence behaves like tuberculosis or Aids – and sees it as an infectious disease that can be stamped out by challenging and changing behavioural norms. Across the room a graph shows fatal shootings in Chicago over several years — a rollercoaster of peaks and troughs. “It’s the same curve for almost every city,” he explains. “It’s an epidemic curve.”
If gun violence is an infectious disease, then Chicago has the bug pretty bad. There were 506 gun murders last year, 16% more than in 2011. This year, so far, has been even worse; three people were shot dead on 1 January alone, and with 43 fatal shootings this January was the deadliest in decades. A few weeks ago, Shirley Chambers lost her fourth of four children to gun violence.
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