Would you believe that the same math that describes how predators in the animal kingdom stake out their territory can be used to identify the boundaries between the turf claimed by rival gangs? The evidence comes from the UCLA Newsroom:
A mathematical model that has been used for more than 80 years to determine the hunting range of animals in the wild holds promise for mapping the territories of street gangs, a UCLA-led team of social scientists reports in a new study.
"The way gangs break up their neighborhoods into unique territories is a lot like the way lions or honey bees break up space," said lead author P. Jeffrey Brantingham, a professor of anthropology at UCLA.
Further, the research demonstrates that the most dangerous place to be in a neighborhood packed with gangs is not deep within the territory of a specific gang, as one might suppose, but on the border between two rival gangs. In fact, the highest concentration of conflict occurs within less than two blocks of gang boundaries, the researchers discovered.
The math the UCLA researchers used is the Lotka-Volterra equations, which were developed in the 1930s to describe how predator and prey species interact over time. The UCLA press release explains what the math describes:
The equations are based on the principle that competition between groups determines where the boundaries between rivals form, and even a tiny amount of competition is enough to cause territories to form.
"What's at work is a competitive balancing act where both gangs are trying to keep their rival as far away as possible," Brantingham said.
The model the researchers derived from the equation predicted that gang boundaries would form midway between the home bases of rivals and would run in a perpendicular line between them.
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