October 23, 2009

Prof talks gun policy, economics of crime

Professor of Public Policy Jens Ludwig spoke about Chicago’s high homicide rate and its relation to gun policy Monday in Swift Hall. Recalling recent stories about gang violence, Ludwig explained his role in curbing gun-related homicides and advocated bringing statistics into policy programs.

The event was hosted by the U of C chapter of the ACLU.

An economist by training, Ludwig said the motivation behind his gun policy research is saving the lives of innocent people by uncovering successful ways to get guns out of the hands of murderers. Much of his research focuses on Chicago, a hotbed for gun violence.

Ludwig told the story of the death of Nequiel Fowler, a 10-year-old living on 86th Street. In September of last year, Fowler was walking with her blind sister one morning when she was caught in a gang shooting.

“I’ve been working on gun policy for 15 years,” Ludwig said, “and this is one of the saddest stories I’ve heard.” He said tragic stories such as Fowler’s motivate him to work harder.

As the director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, Ludwig’s research gives quantitative feedback on the perverse and often baffling results of gun policy programs.

In a field where countless approaches are advocated and results can be difficult to evaluate, the Crime Lab collects and analyzes data to uncover real correlations.

Ludwig mentioned one recent study that shows that there is a significant drop in crime if there are more policemen patrolling the streets. However, in 2005, the federal government reduced funding from $1 billion to just $5 million for the Community Patrolling Services (COPS) Program, which would bring police where they’re needed.

“Our research shows that for every dollar put into the COPS program, four to six dollars are saved from crime reduction. We should be investing millions in this,” Ludwig said.