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Gun Wars and Community Terrorization: Investigating Longitudinal Gang Violence in New Jersey from a Networked Perspective

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2020, $435,020)

The purpose of this project is to explore the structural evolution of inter-group conflict over time, accounting for changes in the victimization of non-gang affiliated community members. The applicant will map the networks of gang violence in New Jersey and investigate the role of firearm violence within the broader context of gang conflict. The project aims to answer two primary research questions that are based on a theoretical framework of network/contagion perspectives, as well as the conflict theory, where power dynamics and perceived threats to power drive the decision to engage in violence: (1) To what extent does gang use of firearms spillover into public space and terrorize communities? (2) Among gangs, is the use of firearms imbalanced, and if so, to what extent does networked gun violence vary based on the characteristics of the offending group? The applicant will also examine the individual level and aggregate to gang-level conflicts. By drawing on data from 1,500 court cases derived from LexisNexis® to map the networks of gang violence in New Jersey, the project will examine violence perpetrated by criminal street gangs in that State between 1970 and 2018. The impact of firearms on gang violence has not been investigated at the state level. Deterrent strategies must consider the social structure within which individual gang members are embedded, as well as the group's cohesion, and linkage to other groups, and the extent to which the broader context of gang conflict spills over within and to other, such as rural communities. The study will also capture cases where offending and victimization are connected to drugs. The project will also examine gang networks through a geospatial lens, as that approach would control for geographic terrain in the evolution of violence patterns. This project utilizes three networked analytical approaches to answer the research questions. These are a descriptive investigation of conflict structure; an inferential approach to understanding the factors that impact a structural change of a network over time; and geospatial approach to understanding how the composition of gang violence in the State is impacted by geographic dispersion, specifically providing new insights into the diffusion of violence throughout New Jersey moving from the densely populated urban areas, such as Newark, to the more rural areas with far less population density. The authors will produce five peer-reviewed articles and three professional presentations resulting from this work. The research team will also record podcasts to discuss the research findings. Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 16, 2020