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Understanding Socio-environmental and Physical Risk Factors Influencing Firearm Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2021
34 pages

This is the Final Summary Overview of a project with the goal of providing the cities of Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh (and beyond) with information on the interaction among built-environment features, socioeconomic traits, and firearm violence, so that law enforcement and urban planners can consider ways to prevent firearm violence.



The project conducted focus groups in two neighborhoods per city. The identification of relatively higher crime neighborhoods was based on the locations of all reported homicides, robberies, and aggravated assaults with a firearm. Upon selection of the neighborhoods, an expert panel of urban planners in each of the cities weighed in on the identified neighborhoods to further validate the selection of the target neighborhoods. Community members described concerns related to both the physical environment (layout of streets) and types of facilities placed in the community. They often associated specific crimes with key neighborhood features. A directed analysis approach was used to process the focus group data. The researchers extracted themes at various levels, including within each of the study neighborhoods, across the two neighborhoods for each city, and across all the selected cities. Upon completion of the overall synthesis, the researchers summarized results for each city, and these summaries were shared with the expert panel of urban planners. This report presents the cross-city comparisons and lessons. Across all cities, participants were concerned with overgrowth, lack of lighting, and loitering. Isolation and crowded areas were both viewed as dangerous, but for different reasons. All cities had perceived issues with prostitution, drugs, and violence, and these activities tended to be perceived as associated with built-environment features that led to firearm violence. Community members also described socioeconomic factors perceived as related to firearm violence and crime. Lessons learned and recommendations for city planning are presented. Extensive figures and tables