Crime Rate Info?
November 25, 2010 11:19 AM   Subscribe

How can I get information about the crime rate in a given neighborhood?

I am interested in potentially purchasing a house in an area that borders a city reputed to be "dangerous." How can I get accurate information about the crime rate near the house? Is the only way to contact the local police station? If so, is there someone in particular (I've read about community resource officers online; are they generally found in every police department?) with whom I should speak? Is this information available online?
posted by amro to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Please try to include all relevant details such as your location, operating system, gender or contact information.
posted by ripley_ at 11:22 AM on November 25, 2010

Response by poster: I don't think that my location is essential to answering the question, but it's in my profile if you disagree. However, there are various neighborhoods in my town and where I currently live is farther away from the neighboring city and generally considered safer than the house (in the same zip code) that I am interesting in purchasing. I would prefer not to disclose the location of either my current home or the house for sale with any more specificity than that.
posted by amro at 11:27 AM on November 25, 2010

EveryBlock maps crime data. Plug in your zip code to see if your 'hood's data is there!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:39 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am drawing a blank right now, but about 4 months ago, a real estate site (like, but not) released a most dangerous neighborhood ranking. Unfortunately, their methods were wrong. For each zip code, they took numbers of crimes and then divided it by the population of that zipcode, and then called that a crime rate for that area. They did not differentiate types of crime, so vandalism = pickpocket = car theft = murder. The "worst" neighborhood was in Chicago, where they determined that you have a 1 in 4 chance of being a victim of a crime.

Which is bullshit. If you dug into the numbers, all of the "worst" neighborhoods were almost always very urban, and had some kind of attraction that brought tons of visitors to the area per year. In Chicago, it was the area with the stadium where the Bulls and the Blackhawks play. And also lots of empty lots. So the rate was completely wrong- the crimes were happening to both visitors and residents, and perpetrated by visitors and residents. If you add in those numbers, the rate would drop to something more normal. Same thing happened to college towns.

My point is, you have to look at more than just crime rates. Your zip code might have a mall, and thus the rate of theft and car break-ins might appear high. When in reality, it is perfectly normal for malls and below average for the residential area. But since nobody lives at the mall to offset the number of petty crimes that occur there, it skews the numbers.

Better off driving through the area and patronizing the businesses in the area. If there are bulletproof windows and metal detectors, probably not a good plan. Look at the houses- lots of barred windows and clubs on car steering wheels? Same thing. And yeah, stop into the local police station

I also believe the FBI keeps these stats, but no clue how to get them.
posted by gjc at 11:39 AM on November 25, 2010

Your location is relevant because some cities put a ton of information online. For example, my city has a gigantic website where you can track crime data in detail by month, type of crime, location, etc.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:51 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites] lists all the calls for service/police reports by zip code (they don't cover every city, however) and they have an analytics section.
posted by jamaro at 12:01 PM on November 25, 2010

Best answer: I called the local police in DC and asked what tool they recommended. That tool allowed me to run crime stats in concentric circles around my proposed house, and at the time it allowed me to read the narratives of each reported crime. (That last bit has since been removed.). My neighborhood has bulletproof glass in a lot of establishments left over from the bad old days, but the actual crime rates are lower than looks would suggest.
posted by semacd at 12:31 PM on November 25, 2010

Raids Online has data for certain areas - you can filter by type of crime and date range.
posted by scrambles at 1:27 PM on November 25, 2010

Your location is vital because not every city is in the US. The tools I'd give you for cities in Canada would not apply to American cities. See the issue?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:44 PM on November 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

The police department in a nearby city posts stops and arrests on Twitter, @ShawneePD. Maybe see if the department/division/precinct in your target area does also?
posted by Katravax at 2:14 PM on November 25, 2010

Best answer: Neighborhood Scout is a pretty good place to check as a start. I was looking up information about Newark, NJ (a place practically renowned for its crime rate) and it had some very good stats up. Just to make sure, I even called the site's contacts. I was told that they use multiple sources of information, such as FBI data, local and state data, etc, and spend a few months compiling the data to create the best account possible. I personally had a few issues just because Newark has the problem of not centralizing all its data - which means that the police reports and the city reports had different stats - so I couldn't be completely sure of the numbers presented on Neighborhood Scout.
posted by swaffles at 2:32 PM on November 25, 2010

Once you find you tool, be sure you do some comparison searching to make sure you understand the relative risk. I'm moving to a purportedly more dangerous neighborhood soon, but when I compared the crime stats to my current "good" neighborhood, they were actually very similar.
posted by yarly at 5:46 PM on November 25, 2010

Population density is a critical factor that is hard to adjust for when looking at crime maps. Just something to keep in mind. My city has been subdivided into a collection of reporting areas, but they differ in size and population (and residential vs commercial), so it's completely useless to compare crime stats among them.
posted by jewzilla at 9:20 PM on November 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to those of you who provided helpful information! bluedaisy and ethnomethodologist, I provided my location in the second comment. Read before you pile-on.
posted by amro at 5:38 AM on November 26, 2010

Major cities almost always have a crime map you can google. I live in the Bay Area and there's at least 3-4 major ones I can pull up.

It's also important to realize that different cities and neighborhoods have different..."boundaries". You might have one neighborhood where the craziest stuff happens, but literally across the street no crime happens. This is generally more true in older cities with long standing neighborhoods and unequal police protection.

It also can be specific and local- the street up from me has 3-5 assaults and homicides a year - but that's also next to 2 bars, 3 late night liquor stores, and 3 transient hotels. Meanwhile, on my block, one person I know has been mugged in the 7 years I've lived here.

So definitely see if you can find a map that has 3-5 years of history at least- then you can start seeing patterns and figuring out which areas you don't want to live in.
posted by yeloson at 8:39 AM on November 26, 2010

Crime Statistics, and Bureau of Justice are a good place to start. Our local newspaper maps out crimes, you may wish to check the newspaper's website for a Google mapping. This site may or may not be helpful, I haven't tried it yet. Good luck!
posted by ~Sushma~ at 8:47 AM on November 26, 2010

Amro, you said this in your second comment:

I don't think that my location is essential to answering the question

I was just trying to be helpful and not trying to pile on.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:04 AM on November 26, 2010

Best answer: **Update** Just found another resource: ADT Security Local Crime Rates - all mapped out for your stalking uh...educational pleasure!
posted by ~Sushma~ at 5:25 AM on November 28, 2010

Response by poster: I ended up contacting the Lawrenceville police department and I spoke with an extremely helpful and informative officer.
posted by amro at 12:27 PM on November 29, 2010

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