Preparing for Disaster: a Cross-Sectional Study of Social Connection and Gun Violence

Document Type



Living in communities with persistent gun violence is associated with negative social, behavioral, and health outcomes, analogous to those of a natural disaster. Taking a disaster-preparedness approach may identify targets for community-based action to respond to on-going gun violence. We assessed the relevance of adapting a disaster-preparedness approach to gun violence and, specifically, the relationship between perceived collective efficacy, its subscales of social cohesion and informal social control, and exposure to gun violence. In 2014, we conducted a cross-sectional study using a community-based participatory research approach in two neighborhoods in New Haven, CT, with high violent crime rates. Participants were ≥18 years of age and English speaking. We measured exposure to gun violence by adapting the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods Exposure to Violence Scale. We examined the association between perceived collective efficacy, measured by the Sampson Collective Efficacy Scale, and exposure to gun violence using multivariate modeling. We obtained 153 surveys (51% response rate, 14% refusal rate, and 35% non-response rate). Ninety-five percent reported hearing gunfire, 58% had friend or family member killed by gun violence, and 33% were physically present during a shooting. In the fully adjusted model, one standard deviation higher perceived collective efficacy was associated with lower reported exposure to gun violence (β = -0.91, p < 0.001). We demonstrated that it is possible to activate community members and local officials to engage in gun violence research. A novel, community-based approach adapted from disaster-preparedness literature may be an effective framework for mitigating exposure to gun violence in communities with persistent gun violence.

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Category Tags

Public Safety and Crime; Law, Policy, and Decision-Making

New Haven Neighborhood

New Haven (All)

Additional Information

The paper states that there are two neighborhoods in New Haven studied but does not specify which.