Academic Minute Podcast

Brandon del Pozo, Brown University – Gun Violence at Home and War

Just how dangerous is gun violence in some cities for young men?

Brandon del Pozo, assistant professor of medicine and public health at Brown University, says going to war may be safer than staying home.

Brandon del Pozo an assistant professor at Brown University, conducts NIH-funded research at the intersection of public health, public safety, and justice. Prior to research, Dr. del Pozo served as a police officer for 23 years: 19 in the New York City Police Department, where he started on patrol in East Flatbush, Brooklyn and four as the Chief of Police of Burlington, Vermont, where he directed the city’s interdisciplinary response to the opioid crisis. His writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Vital City, and the New York Daily News. Dr. del Pozo’s book, The Police and the State, was published in December of 2022 by Cambridge University Press.

Gun Violence at Home and War

One trope about gun violence is that some cities are as violent as war zones. This is why some people referred to Chicago as “Chiraq” during the Iraq war. Our research team wondered if the trope had any truth to it. If it did, it would not only show the acuteness of the nation’s gun violence crisis, and veterans often face trauma and PSTD, so it would highlight the effects gun violence can have on survivors. So we compared the risk of violent death faced by military-aged men in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles to the risks they would have faced if they had gone to war in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The results were stark. In 2020 and 2021, young adult males who lived in the 10% most violent zip codes in Chicago and Philadelphia would have faced a much lower risk of violent death if they had been deployed to war than simply living at home. In the most violent zip code in Philly, the risk of staying at home was almost double that of going to war; in Garfield Park, Chicago, it was over three times higher.

Extreme risk wasn’t a fact of life in every large city, though: risks faced by young men living in New York and L.A. were much lower than if they were deployed to war. But in all the neighborhoods we looked at, risks of violence were overwhelmingly faced by Black and Hispanic victims. And while a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan was about a year long, these men faced domestic risks of violence year after year, which meant the risks — and side effects — accumulated.

Protecting public health and safety in our cities means measuring and reducing the risks faced by those who live there – especially the young men in the most violent zip codes who experience violence and trauma on par with those who have gone to war.

Read More:
[JAMA Network] – Comparing Risks of Firearm-Related Death and Injury Among Young Adult Males in Selected US Cities With Wartime Service in Iraq and Afghanistan


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