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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

BU: Some Gun Violence Risk Factors are Visible from Space

Shape-Up, a new project led by Dr. Jonathan Jay, assistant professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) won the $100,000 Everytown for Gun Safety Prize and was named a Solver with MIT Solve.

Shape-Up is a web application designed to help city governments identify and prioritize areas where a fairly simple physical improvement, such as turning a vacant lot into a park or tearing down an abandoned building, can actually reduce gun violence. Shape-Up uses a machine-learning system trained on gun violence data and satellite imagery to identify which areas are at the greatest risk of gun violence, along with data from 311 calls from community members identifying specific issues they want to see fixed.

“What we aim to do here is show city governments that they could be directing resources they’ve already got — and which are often directed towards higher-income neighborhoods first — towards reducing gun violence,” Dr. Jay says.

“It’s a manageable step that shows that this is not a completely overwhelming problem—which isn’t to minimize the problem, but rather to show that there are effective steps you can take right away.”

Shape-Up’s gun violence prevention strategy is based on research — including one study led by Dr. Jay — finding that steps to reduce physical blight in a neighborhood can reduce nearby gun violence by 11 to 29 percent.

Beginning in early 2020, Dr. Jay will run a pilot of Shape-up in Albany, NY.

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