Saturday, September 10, 2011

Failures in Localism

I'm currently looking for housing in Detroit. Since I'm largely unfamiliar with the city, one of the main tools that I've used is a map of crime data reported by the Detroit Police Department. It can be a hard dataset to sift through. After all, not all assaults are the same, but they are represented the map by the same red fist. Descriptions range from "Telephone used to make threatening statements" to "Agg/Felony Assault - gun- police officer involved." There are certainly pockets where gun crime becomes almost common.

But it's not a good tool to show your friends and family who may be concerned about your safety. Even neighborhoods with less violent crime reports have high incidences of some burglaries (Not many major cities provide the raw data on the same site, so finding calibration points relative to places I've lived or seen was difficult. I don't know how specific crime rates compare). It's enough to concern your friends.

I grew up in a city, and I'm used to a certain amount of crime in my neighborhood. The some of the current crew of drug dealers on my block are kids that I used to play with. We had annual shootings within a couple blocks of my house, and a large scale drug bust just down the street (a marijuana grower called the White House switchboard and threatened the President's life at 4 am. When my school bus came at 7, DEA agents were hauling trashbags of plants out of the house. My friend grew up in a rural area, and aren't used to the concept of assault a couple of blocks away.

So I showed her a map of crime in our area from a local crime blog, only to find out that there had been two armed robberies (one at gun point) two blocks away. That kind of shattered the idea that "my neighborhood is safe- yours isn't." It also shattered the concept that we really know what's happening in our little corner of the city. Two good things to clear up in my opinion.

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