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Using social network analysis to examine gun violence

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Dated: 2022
Date Published

 Since research has found gun violence is a social contagion that spreads from one individual to another, to understand the social networks of violence, previous research has used social network analysis, a tool that explores the relationships between social actors. Most of the prior research uses coarrest data and incident reports to produce social networks. The current study incorporates the use of an underused data source, ballistic evidence, to better understand gun violence. The aim was to identify drivers of gun violence and to examine network concentration.


Specifically, National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) leads and associated criminal incidents in combination with all incident reports were collected from a large urban county in the Pacific Northwest between 2015 and 2017. Social network analysis was conducted to produce a NIBIN network to demonstrate the connections between incidents where the same firearm was used. Social network analysis was also conducted to identify individuals who were the most involved in gun violence. Results reveal gun violence is very interconnected as many of the same firearms were discharged in multiple different incidents with several other individuals involved, indicating a connection between these individuals. This demonstrates the utility of using ballistic evidence beyond using only incident and coarrest data because it provides more information that directly relates to gun violence and the transfer of guns. Additionally, this can be very useful for law enforcement agencies to identify who is integral in the gun violence networks that can be helpful for prevention and intervention strategies. (Publisher abstract provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2022