Homicide moves like an infection, first affecting the most vulnerable areas, says a new study.

Researchers say that understanding how murders happen can equip officials to lower homicide rates and even prevent murders from happening.

The study was conducted at the Michigan State University by a team led by April Zeoli. Researchers analyzed data available on 2,366 homicides between 1982 and 2008 that had occurred in Newark, NJ.

Researchers found that the murders don't occur randomly, but follow a pattern like the spread of flu.

Homicides in Newark, often a result of gang wars, first affect the minority and elderly population, slowly moving towards other people in the city. Homicides first start taking place in the center of the city, then moving to southern areas and eventually drifting towards the western areas. Over time, murders left a place completely and began happening in another area of the city.

"By using the principles of infectious disease control, we may be able to predict the spread of homicide and reduce the incidence of this crime," said Zeoli, public health researcher in MSU's School of Criminal Justice, in a news release from the University.

This is the first time that researchers have used medical geography based analytic software to identify homicide trend of an area. Researchers say that the method used in the study can be used to analyze murder rates in real time, helping police know about emerging hotspots in the city.

Researchers even found that there were some clusters in Newark that witnessed no homicides, despite being surrounded by violence for more than 25 years.

"If we could discover why some of those communities are resistant we could work on increasing the resistance of our communities that are more susceptible to homicide," Zeoli said.

The study is published in the journal Justice Quarterly.