Couple Compiles `Deadly' Data Homicide Statistics Show Patterns

Article excerpt

Statistical research can be a killing job the way Richard and Carolyn Block go about it. Since 1970, they have recorded and analyzed every homicide committed in Chicago.

By day, he's a sociology professor at Loyola University and she's a senior research analyst for the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. At night, they're joint experts on homicide - its patterns and prevention.

The Blocks' independent research has won them consulting jobs with the police, local and national publications and a recent Public Broadcasting Service series on violence in Chicago - where homicides now average 900 a year.

"The Chicago Police Department has had a long and productive relationship with them," Lt. Jim Hickey of the department's Bureau of Investigative Services said Thursday. "Their information is sometimes useful to us and always interesting."

An organization the Blocks founded, the Homicide Research Working Group, addressed the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta this year.

"We took an epidemiological approach there - addressing homicide as a public health problem, which it is," Carolyn Block said.

"Back in the pioneering days of epidemiology, a researcher in England noticed that one town had an extremely high number of cholera deaths," she said. "When he looked into it, he found that most of the cholera victims drew their water from one public well. He went to that well and took away the pump handle - no more cholera deaths! …