Is the national focus on mass shootings minimizing the effects of exposure to gun violence in urban communities of color, where it’s most pervasive?
Dr. Amy Carroll-Scott, assistant professor of Community Health and Prevention in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, recently co-authored a study published in the American Journal of Public Health that focused on the results of a survey on neighborhood-level exposures to violence.
People of color experienced significantly more violence than whites, with 80 percent of black residents and more than 70 percent of Latino residents reporting that they had heard gunshots, compared to just 57 percent of white residents. More seriously, 24 percent of black residents had a family member killed, compared to just 10 percent of whites in the same neighborhoods.
The survey is conducted every three years by the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (co-housed at Yale School of Public Health and Southern Connecticut State University, directed by lead author Ms. Alycia Santilli).
Looking at six of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in New Haven, Connecticut, the study didn’t just look at police reports of violent crime incidents, but attempted to gauge levels of exposure to violence experienced by residents there.
Ms. Santilli, Dr. Carroll-Scott and the research team found that 73 percent of people surveyed had heard gunshots, 29 percent had family or friends hurt or wounded and 18 percent had family or friends killed by violent acts. One in 10 people had actually been present when someone was shot, and a third lived in fear of their family or themselves being injured in their neighborhood.
“We can do more if we see gun violence as one epidemic with diverse manifestations and work together to fight for the funding and the will needed to execute a public health approach to gun violence,” said Dr. Carroll-Scott. “If not, we run the risk of further marginalizing urban communities of color experiencing a disproportionate burden of exposure to violence. Instead, the national concern about mass shootings should create empathy for communities already living with this fear and a desire to learn from the case studies of successful solutions from these communities.”