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As homicides drop, Chicago police focus on social networks of gangs

The city organized a closed-door, maps-out, all-hands "gang audit" which identified about 60 active gangs

By Tony Dokoupil
NBC News

CHICAGO — It was an overcast noon, and 12 miles from the city’s sparkling core, Police Commander David McNaughton was ready for murder. His district on the southwest side responded to 39 killings last year, among the highest body counts in the city, which itself recorded 506 murders, the most in the nation. But instead of another bloody year, McNaughton has had to contend with a new surprise: peace and quiet.

The switch was thrown quietly in May 2012, hidden inside a 16-page directive, “Gang Violence Reduction Strategy,” and largely ignored amid a 60 percent rise in murders in the first quarter alone. With less than a year on the job, McCarthy had already disbanded two special task forces, roving teams that muscled neighborhoods into submission. Now he was betting on what he calls “the next phase of community policing in this world”: an emphasis not on the traditional “hot spots” for crime, but on the “hot people” who commit most criminal acts.

Rather than merely responding to crimes or swarming bad neighborhoods, the Chicago Police Department committed to using the new science of social network analysis — the same tools that allow Silicon Valley to predict who you know and what you might like to buy — to detail the city’s “small world of murder,” as one researcher put it, and use that knowledge to stop the next bullet before it's fired.

Full Story: 'Small world of murder': As homicides drop, Chicago police focus on social networks of gangs

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