You probably already have a vague notion about whether crime is high or low in your neighborhood. Which is actually kind of aggravating, if you think about it: The cops collect this data, so why can't you see exactly where crimes happen, down to the block?
Fat chance that the cops would provide such a useful service. Instead, we have Trulia. Today, the real estate site launched what's probably the most fascinating and useful crime map that we've ever seen. Quite simply, it tells you what types of crimes happen down to the block level, in 50 cities across the U.S.
The data is gathered from a slew of sources, including CrimeReports.com, EveryBlock.com, and SpotCrime.com, all of which gather it from police agencies, crime feeds, and the news. But while the data has existed for some time, it's never been combined with geographic data in way that's meant for laymen. Using this infographic, you can see exactly what happens, where -- and you can also compare neighborhoods, and see when crimes peak. Here's a snippet of San Francisco's map:[Click to visit interactive version]
You can even look at which intersections are the most dangerous, and what types of crimes happen there:
A general sense that an area is safe isn't too useful.
Why is Trulia going through all the trouble to produce such top-notch visualization? The fact is that a general sense that a neighborhood is safe isn't too useful if, like one of their visitors, you're looking to actually rent or buy a home. What you really want to know is: How safe is where I live? For example, if you're looking for a house in a neighborhood that's quickly gentrifying, you probably want to know which block are relatively safe, and which ones have a long way to go. Or, if you're trying to find the cheapest house in a good neighborhood that borders a worse one, you want to figure out how close you can get before you get into shoot-out territory.
But there is also all sorts of fascinating meta data that emerges as well. For example, violent crimes such as assault and armed robbery typically occur at about 10 p.m., when people are out on the town and done with work. (Shootings also peak at about 10 p.m.) Theft typically happens in the daylight hours, when people are at work -- but it gets reported at a 6 p.m. peak, when people come home and find out what's happened.
So far, there are 50 counties (and 50 metros) available on the map. But Trulia plans on extending its reach very soon.