Are Chicago’s Safe Passage Routes Located in the Highest Risk Areas?

Safe passage routes to school provide not only a sense of safety for Chicago students from pre-K through high school, but they reduce crime involving students and help increase school attendance. Chicago’s Safe Passage program was introduced in 2009 after the beating death by gangs of 16-year-old Fenger High School honors student Derrion Albert, which was captured on cell phone video. His death and the circumstances received national attention along with a series of other incidents involving CPS students caught in gang violence. Since then, the program has expanded to include schools, parents, residents, law enforcement officials and even local businesses in efforts to provide students with a safe environment. The various types of safe passage programs among the 51 safe route programs currently available include: safe haven programs in which students who fear for their safety can find refuge at the local police station, fire house, library and even convenience stores, barbershops and restaurants; patrols along school routes by veterans, parents and local residents; and walking to school programs in which parents and local residents create a presence to help deter unlawful incidents.

The map below shows the number of all crimes committed in the city of Chicago during the current school year, and the locations of schools and safe routes among those communities that have safe routes. Currently, there are 517 Chicago public schools, of which, only 136 Chicago public schools (26.3% of all schools) fall within the 51 safe routes. Although the safe routes are located in 37 of the high crime communities in general (south, west and northeast sides of Chicago), they do not exist in the pockets of the highest crime incidents (1,500+ highlighted in burgundy) where children are the most vulnerable. Of the 47 schools that fall within the extreme crime areas (1,500+ incidents a year), only 6 have safe routes; the others offer no safe passage options. A list of the schools appears at the end of this blog.

Click through to see the enlarged image.


Schools located in extremely high-crime areas of Chicago (Schools highlighted in green have safe passage routes):
Bennett, Bowen HS, Bradwell, Camelot Safe – Garfield Park, Camelot Safe Academy, Clark HS, Coles, Community, Ericson, Frazier Charter, Frazier Prospective, Galapagos Charter, Great Lakes Charter, Gregory, Harlan HS, Hefferan, Heroes, Herzl, Hirsch HS, Hubbard HS, Learn Charter – Butler, Leland, Mann, Mireles, Noble Charter – Academy, Noble Charter – Baker College Prep, Noble Charter – DRW, Noble Charter – Muchin, Noble Charter – Rowe Clark, Oglesby, Plato, Polaris Charter, Powell, Schmid, Shabazz Charter – Shabazz, Smith, South Shore Intl HS, Webster, Westcott, Winnie Mandela HS, YCCS Charter – Association House, YCCS Charter – CCA Academy, YCCS Charter – Community Service, YCCS Charter – Innovations, YCCS Charter – Olive Harvey, YCCS Charter – Sullivan, YCCS Charter – Youth Development


Implementing visualization techniques in faculty research
The image of the map reflects the different visualization techniques that might be used to effectively convey data or research conclusions to different types of audiences in various disciplines or industries. Visualizations can help identify existing or emerging trends, spot irregularities or obscure patterns, and even address or solve issues.

Ask us how to visualize your research
For help visualizing your own research findings or seeing if your research lends itself to similar techniques including data acquisition and pre-processing of both quantitative and qualitative data, contact Nandhini Gulasingam at

Vehicle Theft in Chicago

Even though vehicle thefts accounted for only 3.9% (10,099) of all crimes in Chicago last year, 62% of the stolen vehicles were recovered with severe damage says the Chicago Police department. Most often the vehicles are stolen by organized rings to be sold on black-markets or shipped overseas, and stripped for parts and resold to various body-shops, or are even resold to unsuspecting customers. In Chicago, 78.9% of the vehicles are stolen from streets, alleys and alongside sidewalks, 8.6% from buildings other than residences, 6.7% from parking lots, 5.5% from residences, and 0.3% from the airports.

The map below shows a hot-spot analysis of the communities that are most and least affected by vehicle theft. The visualization shows statistically significant (statistically significant is the likelihood that a theft is caused by something other than mere random chance) hot-spots in red where a high number of thefts occur and statistically significant cold-spots in blue where few or no thefts occur.

Communities most-prone to vehicle theft (not safe): Uptown (3) in the north, or Austin (25), Avondale (21), Logan Square (22), Hermosa (20), Humboldt Park (23), West Town (24), East/West Garfield Parks (26, 27), Near West Side (28), North Lawndale (29) in the west , or any south central parts of Chicago, namely Chicago Lawn (66), East/West Englewoods (67, 68), Greater Grand Crossing (69), South Shore (43), Auburn Gresham (71) are prone to vehicle thefts.

Communities least-prone to vehicle theft (safe): Edison Park (9), Norwood Park (10), Jefferson Park (11), Forest Glen (12), North Park (13), Dunning (17), Portage Park (15), Lincoln Square (4), North Center (5), Lincoln Park (7) in the north and Bridgeport (60), New City (61), Garfield Ridge (56), Clearing (64), Ashburn (70), West Pullman (53), Morgan Park (75), Beverly (72), Washington Heights (73), East Side (52) and Calumet Heights (48) in the south are least prone to vehicle thefts.
Click through to see the enlarged image.



Techniques Used
The above visualization includes 2 major types of spatial analysis techniques. The vehicle theft locations were geocoded using the addresses and then, Getis-Ord Gi* statistic was used to generate a hot-spot analysis to identify statistically significant clusters.

Implementing visualization techniques in faculty research
The image of the map reflects the different visualization techniques that might be used to effectively convey data or research conclusions to different types of audiences in various disciplines or industries. Visualizations can help identify existing or emerging trends, spot irregularities or obscure patterns, and even address or solve issues.

Ask us how to visualize your research
For help visualizing your own research findings or seeing if your research lends itself to similar techniques including data acquisition and pre-processing of both quantitative and qualitative data, contact Nandhini Gulasingam at

CO2 Emission

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are both natural and man-made. Natural sources include oceans, soil, plants, animals and volcanoes while human-related CO2 is emitted through deforestation, burning of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gases and oil for transportation, and energy for commercial, industrial and residential use. Although human-related emissions account for only 5% of the total, they have increased enormously overtime. According to the U.S. EPA, since 1970, global CO2 emissions have increased 90%, the major contributors (78%) being fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes, followed by deforestation, land-use change and agriculture.

While there are many ways to reduce carbon emission, the most effective is to reduce the consumption of fossil fuel. I pride myself for being environmentally conscious – reducing wastes by using energy-efficient products (furnace, light bulbs, etc.), taking public transportation, recycling and reusing things. Yet, using the “carbon footprint,” a calculator provided by the U.S. EPA, my annual footprint for home energy, transportation and household waste totaled 18,131 lbs., compared to the U.S. average of 24,550 lbs. for a single householder. However, this doesn’t include the CO2 emissions related to producing and delivering my daily consumption of certain goods (food, beverages, clothing, etc.) and services (restaurants, local grocer, etc.) including the amount of energy I use both at work (technology equipment, etc.) and commuting there (based on my 12-15 hours spent outside my home each day). This tool also revealed that just switching my washing machine from warm to cold water would cut carbon emission 150 lbs. per year and save me about $12. If you’d like to see your carbon footprint and/or identify ways to reduce consumption and save money, click on the EPA’s calculator here.

The following infographic shows the extent and distribution of CO2 emissions in the world, the U.S. and Illinois, including the carbon footprints of certain products.

Click through to see the enlarged image.


Techniques Used
The above visualization includes 3 types of techniques:

Quantitative Analysis: A bar and pie chart were used to visualize quantitative data to show carbon emissions by various sectors over time and in 2013.

Statistical Analysis (GIS): Spatial analysis included two major techniques. The choropleth maps and classification methods were used to show the distribution of the emission levels globally and for the U.S.

Graphics: Images were obtained from Google and modified using Photoshop graphic design software

Implementing visualization techniques in faculty research
The image of the map reflects the different visualization techniques that might be used to effectively convey data or research conclusions to different types of audiences in various disciplines or industries. Visualizations can help identify existing or emerging trends, spot irregularities or obscure patterns, and even address or solve issues.

Ask us how to visualize your research
For help visualizing your own research findings or seeing if your research lends itself to similar techniques including data acquisition and pre-processing of both quantitative and qualitative data, contact Nandhini Gulasingam at

ICPSR 2016: The Schedule is LIVE!!

The Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) has posted 2016 summer workshop schedule.  The program, housed at the University of Michigan, hosts a full schedule of methodological, research, and statistical workshops through the late spring and summer, both in Ann Arbor and other places around the country.

There are two four-week sessions, the first of which is June 22-July 17, the second is July 20-August 14, which can be tricky to make work.  But, there are also 3-5 day workshops on a variety of topics throughout the summer.

Some noteworthy workshops:

R: Learning by Example (Boulder, CO June 8-10)

Doing Bayesian Analysis: An Introduction (Ann Arbor, MI (?) July 7-10)

Multilevel and Mixed Models Using Stata (Ann Arbor, MI (?), July 27-29)

There are also classes on structural equation modeling, curating and managing data for reuse, social network analysis (in R).  The good news is that DePaul is a member of ICPSR, so interested DePaul faulty would get a break on the tuition.  What do you think?  Interested in spending a few days in Ann Arbor?



On the Lunacy of Science Deniers

Confession: My knickers are in a twist.

The suggestion that there is a causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism has my dander up. Still. “Why?” you ask. Last month, the CDC released estimates for measles cases in the United States. As of August 24, 159 cases of measles have been reported for 2013. What’s more, is that 82% of these cases were in individuals who were not vaccinated. Despite measles being declared as eradicated in the US in 2000 (albeit, not outside the US). Yeah, you read that right. A disease that scientists eradicated in this country ON PURPOSE is making a comeback.

This does not get my back up. A projected 230-240 cases in a country of 300 million+? Statistically, it’s very small potatoes. What annoys me is that there is STILL discussion about the link between autism the MMR vaccine. Newsflash: in the scientific community, this debate ended when the Lancet retracted the study that suggested the link (authored by Andrew Wakefield and 11 others), Wakefield was barred from practicing medicine in the UK, and other, larger, more rigorous studies could not replicate the original study results. “Alternative” media outlets such as the Whiteout Press have been running headlines like “Courts Quietly Confirm MMR Vaccine Causes Autism.” Which courts? you, the savvy reader of research ask. A local Italian court, citing the long debunked, fraudulent, and retracted study acknowledged the link while reviewing the case of a child who was vaccinated and who was later diagnosed with autism. Seriously. The same legal system that gave us the prolonged drama of 3 different trials for Amanda Knox (the American university student accused of killing her roommate), convictions for manslaughter of 6 scientists for not predicting the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake? Of course, my personal favorite is the Supreme Court of Rome’s reversal of a rape conviction on the grounds that women wearing jeans could not be raped because it was impossible to remove jeans of victim without her consent. Please tell me more about how courts should be used to establish causal relationships, they are soooo good at it.


Disregarding the fact that courts are not supposed to be in the business of establishing “scientific truth”, this whole things makes me twitch. People who choose to forego vaccination against deadly disease risk jeopardizing the health of everyone else. Vaccines work by preventing viruses from doing their virus thing (replicating and evolving) in those who have been vaccinated. Problems arise when they are allowed to replicate and evolve in large segments of a population, the virus interacting with the infinitely detailed and immense genetic information that each individual contains. In this scenario, unvaccinated individuals provide the bio-physiological environment perfect for mutations.

Equally important to understand, is that vaccine deniers aren’t really making a choice. Using 2013 measles reports, if one were to estimate the crude risk that an unvaccinated person will acquire measles this year, they would get 0.00000050129 (of course, I am sure there is a more elegant adjusted rate somewhere, but it’s not the point). Parents that choose not to vaccinate their kids aren’t making a true Sophie’s choice, between two horrible choices with equally high probability. They are choosing between one horrible, but unlikely choice (their kid getting measles) and a less horrible, greater likelihood event (their child being diagnosed with autism). Let me be clear: this “choice” is only possible because so many other people are vaccinating their children.

fear and loathing

What really grinds my gears is the default position in our society that treats all “facts” not only as valid, but equally important (I say “facts” because this default position does not usually include a rigorous consideration of the source of said facts). Allow me to repeat: our socio-cultural context simultaneously makes no comment on the validity of information presented for public consumption while allowing uninformed individuals to not only comment on topics of serious public discussion, but influence that discussion. This is indeed madness.

The continued existence of the anti-vaccine movement specifically, and the influence of science deniers more broadly, is really just a canary in the coal mine for intellectualism in the United States (click if you are unfamiliar with the phrase). Recent research on individuals who are most likely to make up “facts” to support their ideology as well as the latest results from international educational rankings seem to illustrate a socio-cultural context in the United States that does not favor science, research, and the intellectual endeavors of curious and independent thinkers, (and which has always been the bedrock of American exceptionalism). In the US, anti-intellectualism and science denying have merged with populism to produce a context where good science is indistinguishable from bad, where we have no idea what validity means, and specialized training in a discipline is unnecessary because a friend of a friend of a friend experienced X, so it must be true.

Mess Hall: Doug Bruce

people eating together
Photo via the Cornell University Library on flickr

Mess Hall is a “brown bag” series (bring your lunch!) intended to allow DePaul researchers to present their works in progress at any stage (mess & all). Mess Hall is a safe, fun, supportive and no-pressure environment for presenters to practice conference presentations, talk through data analysis problems, or untangle conceptual or framework issues. For those not presenting, Mess Hall offers an opportunity to learn what scholars in other departments and fields are working on and to become part of a supportive community of research at DePaul.

Bring your lunch and your brains and support your colleagues’ scholarship.
If you’d like to present at Mess Hall, send an email to Jessica Speer.

WHO: Doug Bruce, Assistant Professor in Health Science and the Master of Public Health Program

WHEN: Friday, July 12, 1 – 2 p.m.

WHERE: SSRC Conference Room, 990 W. Fullerton Ave., Suite 3100

Utilizing Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR) Methods to
Study Resilience among Marginally Housed or Homeless
Young Men who have Sex with Men

Homeless and marginally housed young men who have sex with men (YMSM) face multiple adversities in their lives and exhibit significant health disparities compared to other persons their age, including stably housed lesbian gay and bisexual youth. In order to better understand how this population responds to the adversity in their lives, Bruce and colleagues are preparing to launch a study of resilience among homeless and marginally housed YMSM using community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods.

CBPR actively engages communities in the design, implementation, and analysis of research that is relevant to the lives of communities’ members, in order to develop programming that is not deficit-based but builds upon the strengths and resources present within such communities. The proposed study reflects a participatory collaboration between the Broadway Youth Center (BYC) and the Community Health Research and Evaluation Group (CHREG) at DePaul focusing on innovative methods to assess health among one of BYC’s target populations.

Particular focus in this discussion will be given to human subject considerations in actively engaging research participants in the design and implementation of CBPR as well as analysis and dissemination of findings.

On the Importance of Rock Solid Methods…

I know it’s a bit after the fact, but did anyone else catch Antonin Scalia aluding to Mark Regnerus’s (widely debunked) “research” on the detrimental effects of gay parenting on children’s outcomes?  NPR has transcript and audio from the oral argument on March 26, 2013.  I’ve pulled out the section where Justice Scalia mentions work (not by name), but we all know who he is talking about.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Cooper, let me — let me give you one — one concrete thing. I don’t know why you don’t mention some concrete things. If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must — you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s -­ there’s considerable disagreement among — among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a — in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some States do not — do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason.

photo (8)Justice Scalia’s comments are the very reason why in social science we have to be so careful with what we publish.  I believe that way we think about research has changed.  Most of us that conduct research in Academia do so with the idea that we want to make the world a better place.  That is why we went to graduate school and toiled under conditions with low pay and long hours.  We hope that we are doing so to improve the conditions of someone.  To improve their life, their world.  And we want our research to contribute to that end.  I believe that most researchers are trying to do that.

However, some of us get myopic about our research and don’t necessarily appreciate the context in which it will be received.  Of course, if we ONLY considered the socio-cultural ramifications of the research that we publish, then many wouldn’t publish.  Think about it: in addition to the soul grinding process that can be academic writing, we now have to consider how our work will be received or not?  Whether anything changes?  How many babies have died in the US since the American Academy of Pediatrics began the “Back to Sleep” Initiative in 1994?   Whatever the number is, it’s too many.  How many unrestrained passengers are killed every year in motor vehicle accidents, despite the fact that every vehicle comes equipped with safety belts? Too many.  If we consider only the fact that many babies STILL sleep in unsafe sleeping conditions or that people continue to ride in cars without wearing seatbelts as our only measures of success, then we might think that research on these matters does little to change socio-cultural behaviors that influence the phenomena we study.

Obviously, this kind of thinking isn’t usually entertained for long by prolific and productive academic scholars.  Their work serves as the narrative of our social reality that policy makers must be able to consider at face value.  What’s more, is that when the work is the product of a hurried review process, sloppy methodology, or questionable ethical relationships (in Regnerus’s study with a funder), it is indistinguishable from the rest of the body of research (those publications with a deliberate review process, solid methodology, and no unethical relationships).

This issue has become more important then ever.  In our digitally connected world where the line between “opinion/commentary” and “fact” is blurry and varies according to who is involved, our research is being used in ways that we may never have imagined.  In this particular case, Regnerus’s research became a tool in the latest battle (civil rights for homosexuals) between the right and the left.  And that is not the problem- this is why we do research, to contribute to the national dialogue that leads to change and improving the lives of people.  The problem is, that in this particular case, the conclusions based on methodologically weak research are being used to validate the unequal treatment of Americans.  And that is deplorable.