In Allegheny County, Pa., an area of 730 square miles and 1.2 million people, there were 120 murders last year. In Pittsburgh’s Hill District’s Addison Terrace apartments, an area of only a few blocks, there were five murders, nearly one for every 100 households, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. All five victims were black males; all were shot to death. It was the second bloodiest year on record for the county as a whole, but the violence barely touched many municipalities and Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Others experienced a relentless barrage of gunfire. Post-gazette.com posted a Google map of the county that displays the location of every 2008 homicide, with a red pin marking each spot. A mouse click on the pin brings up a bubble with the victim’s name, age, race and cause of death, and links to Post-Gazette stories.
The pins are concentrated in areas that long have been plagued by drugs and gun violence. But the map also shows unique patterns. The heaviest concentrations of homicides in the county are found in the city neighborhoods of Homewood and the Hill District, which are both predominantly black. Such concentrations of violent crime resemble the outbreak of an infectious disease. Local officials must develop a comprehensive approach, beyond law enforcement, to address the underlying symptoms, argues Dr. Stephen Thomas, director of the Center for Minority Health in the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. The map also shows the risk of living in certain parts of the county, even if one avoids the drug trade or other illegal activity.