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Professor Brings Sensibility to Curbing Murder Rates

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A University of Chicago professor has distilled the city’s high homicide rate into a simple and elegant equation.


“Two guys, plus one disagreement, plus one gun, equals a dead body, that’s the equation,” said Harold Pollack, the co-director of the university’s Crime Lab, which is trying to bring greater rigor to the study of violence in Chicago.


Pollack focuses his work on the last two variables that are more easily addressed by public policy than the temperamental nature of the young men often involved in homicides.


“Is there a weapon of mass destruction greater than the average teenage boy? I don’t think so,” said Pollack, who extensively researched more than 200 consecutive homicides. “A lot of homicides in Chicago are impulsive acts — you combine a teenager with a gun and you up the chances something bad will happen.”


He said Chicago and the United States have similar violent crime rates as most Western European countries, but crime is more often deadly here because of the prevalence of guns.