Statistics about crime are nothing new, but maps display that data in ways that are more helpful than the usual mind-numbing columns of figures and numbers.
Maps communicate a lot of information at a glance, including data about particular crimes in specific geographic areas of interest. Want to know how many crimes occurred last week in the Minneapolis police precinct where you live? There’s a map for that (PDF). Thinking about buying a home in an unfamiliar neighborhood in California? There’s a crime map for that, too.
Police departments around the country have long provided statistical crime data, but The New York City Police Department recently began offering an interactive map of crime in parts of the city that uses an overlay to Google Maps. There’s some controversy over the map’s accuracy, but it does allow users to explore different parts of the city and at least get a sense of crime rates there.
But, it’s not only police departments that offer this service. Real estate web sites, such as trulia.com, offer it as well.
Interested in buying a house in Atlanta? Click on the area you’d like to live, choose what crime types you’d like to see displayed, and the system automatically generates what’s known as a “heat map” of criminal activity. You can correlate this with school locations, median property values, and other data to help make your home buying decision.
Just interested in checking out crime info for your own region, city, or neighborhood? There are also stand alone web sites, such as crimemapping.com, that do nothing but provide crime data, down to descriptions of specific offenses they’ve mapped.
One major challenge with all this, of course, is the “garbage in-garbage out” phenomenon. The maps are only as good as the crime data used to build them, and there’s currently no simple way to verify the completeness or accuracy of any given crime map.
So, use at your own risk.
What crime mapping applications have you used? Leave a comment below and share your experiences.
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