Thoughts about Crown Heights while looking at a crime map — Brooklynian

Thoughts about Crown Heights while looking at a crime map

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Years ago, crime in Crown Heights was much more common than it is today.   As a result, the members of this message board routinely expressed fear about their surroundings and wondered aloud whether they were safe living "here".

Simultaneously, the NYPD and the private sector developed and embraced mapping technologies which provided accurate, easy-to-digest information through services like Spot Crime and DoITT.   

Today, crime has decreased, but the maps remain quite popular.  

Law enforcement agencies use the maps to focus their efforts on hotspots, while the public seems to use them to rationalize or dismiss their fears.  

Last week, two members of SOS Crown Heights looked at a crime map of Crown Heights and wrote down their thoughts, which were then published on a pretty obscure section of the Museum of Modern Art's website:

As of tonight, they had received a total of 4 responses.   I found their thoughts pretty interesting, and they've asked me to solicit some more thoughts from readers. 

I'll break the ice and point out that while talking about it makes some uncomfortable, it is no secret that many types of crime are far more common in some areas of Crown Heights (or, for that matter: Brooklyn, or New York, or the United States) than others.        Most who work in the field perceive the reasons as complex. 

So, to save us carpal tunnel syndrome, we may want to stick to the maps.    

Could a map be created that spurned constructive reactions?    

What would the map contain? 


  • Spurned, or spurred?
  • edited February 2015
    Spurned is definitely not right

    Spurred is closer

    Or, if you prefer, "fostered".

    Could a map be created that FOSTERED constructive reactions?

    What would the map contain?
  • edited February 2015
    I like the map(s) as it/they are. The maps show the raw data/incident reports, which is extremely helpful in my view, even if they don't show anything "new." Acknowledging that what is constructive is subjective and a matter of degree/perspective, I think its important to keep the map as it is and allow people their own interpretations; what is constructive to one may not be to another. Not to mention, the maps are of practical importance to positioning crime fighting resources. I say, enough of the attempts at being politically correct! Indeed, these are crime maps and, so, it naturally makes sense to spot crime. If others want to make "maps of kindness," by all means go ahead. Still, while there are acts of kindness everywhere, such maps won't tell me if I'm more likely to be mugged, etc. in one area vs. another, which is why the crime maps are important. 
  • edited February 2015
    While some may want to get rid of the maps to "protect" the reputations of the neighborhoods (ie the reputations of those who live in them), they really don't stand a chance.

    I am actually thinking about the advocates who are ready to admit that the areas are in need of real assistance: These crimes exist, and the maps accurately portray their frequency.

    ...when used appropriately, the maps are not an example of media bias.

    What I think Derrick and Amy (see MOMA link) were going for is whether the maps should show the casual reader MORE detail, not less.

    Should they create a map that also shows one or more of the things that often co-occur (or inversely co-occurs), with the crimes?

    Things like:

    Foster care and child protective services?
    Public assistance: WIC, SNAP/Food Stamps?
    After school programs?
    Housing projects?
    Check cashing and pawn shops?
    HS graduation rates?
    Physical and psychiatric disabilities (SSD, SSI)?
    Community organizations: associations, gardens, etc?
    Voting rates?
    DOB safety violations?
    Supermarkets that get more than 50% of their payments via EBT?

    Would depicting such indicators advance the cause of those who wish to intervene in such areas, or just further isolate the areas? this point including such data would be pretty easy. It is now within reach of even the most under funded, frontline non-profit.
  • I can see the point of showing more, but, ultimately, I would think that most people who are viewing these maps care about one thing and one thing only: whether an area is safe as judged by crime statistics. They aren't necessarily concerned about much else.

    I think other documents/charts/maps showing the other things you listed are important, but I am not too pressed to have them included in crime maps. Note, at the tip of our fingers via Google maps street view or just regular view, we can get a pretty solid idea of what is in the area as far as physical amenities go. 

    For the other things that go to socioeconomic status, I'd think that this would further go to stigmatizing certain neighborhoods at issue here. Those areas with the worst crime often have poor voting rates, are high poverty, have multiple housing projects, have low high school graduation rates, etc. Pairing that information with the crime maps would further isolate certain neighborhoods in my view and threaten to slow needed investment in these areas. As for people and organizations who wish to intervene in these areas to help improve them: they generally know where the hot spots are and there are plenty of programs aimed at these areas already. To those who don't: I'd encourage them to get involved with well-known city organizations (both public and private) whose mission it is to help improve safety, education, etc. in depressed areas, and who are already working in these areas; they don't need a map for that and there's no need to reinvent the wheel. 

  • edited February 2015
    I agree, when most law abiding people are presented with such information they conclude it is a good place to avoid, not "intervene".

    I suppose such detailed maps would be handy to development staff in convincing funders that they would be funding services in a truly high need area.  

    My thought is that while such maps are at our fingertips, they are not as accessible to those living in the troubled neighborhoods.  I wonder how many people believe there is more crime than there actually is, which then causes a snowball of crime because they stay indoors, leave the streets to criminals, don't involve the police, etc  
  • 1) When you alter the time frame to one year (e.g. Jan - Dec 2014) and drill down to see the dots, it seems that a startling number of blocks and corners in NYC have at least some type of crime reported - certainly not all, but far more than half. The baseline level of crime in NYC, then, is higher, and crime more widely dispersed, than I would have supposed, without this map.

    2) While you can separate out types of crimes (murder, rape, etc) individually, I would like to see them cross-referenced/contextualized on one map. In other words, I want the 'dot' to tell me (visually, without clicking on it) not only the number of crimes, but the type. Derrick raised this point. Is a particular corner a hot spot just for crimes against property? Or crimes against persons too? I'd like an easier way to know that.

    3) This data needs to be kept in proportion. There is always a great deal of observation bias (not sure if that's the technically appropriate term) in our perception of our community as being more X than it really is because you once saw X happen. I always chuckle when people declare "Cars always speed on this block": How do you know this? Do you have a built-in radar gun, or some other way of intuitively knowing exactly how fast a car goes? Are you always standing there, 24 7, to support your claim? Crime is similar: one person's one-time bad experience (a mugging, e.g.) does not make a particular block a "bad block" to be steered clear of, just as the occasional speeding car does not make a block a raceway/deathtrap in need of speed humps. Given the sheer scale of numbers involved in any part of this city, the thousands of people moving up and down each block each day, seeing only two or three crimes on a given block over the course of a year should make us wipe our brows with relief, not fret and clutch our purses more tightly.
  • edited February 2015
    I agree.

    An additional phenomena is that the maps only show crimes which come to the attention of the police, and different areas of the city involve the police to different degrees.

    Regardless of whether they occur, felonies that result in physical injury (murder, assault) would seem to not be subject to this under reporting bias because they often involve ambulances and ER visits.

    However, crimes like robbery may be far more likely to be reported in areas of the city that have less social problems, because the residents tend to trust to police more.

    Because of the shame (and other dynamics) associated with the crime, I believe rape is under reported throughout the city. I suspect this under reporting is further compounded in high crime precincts.

    So, I think it is pretty safe to look at a pattern of assaults and murders in a given area and then assume that the crimes that often accompany them (drug dealing, burglary, robbery, etc) are also present, regardless of whether they appear on the map.

    However, I don't think that one can infer assaults and murders frequently occur in areas where they don't appear on the map.

  • edited February 2015
    As of today:


  • I have looked at the new map of shootings, and was discouraged initially when it claimed that there were 36 shootings within a 1-mile radius of my home on NY Ave. However, I have been clicking through each incident and reporting errors when I find them (and I have found 2 so far). These 2 were the closest to my house, but the data says that they actually took place out in Brownswille and Weeksville. So, bad news for those neighborhoods, But the outlook is slightly better for Crown Heights North than it first appears.
  • I found another error with a multiple shooting. Article and detail listed it as the Bronx (Grand Concourse), pin was located in Bed-Stuy
  • I wonder if some of "our shootings" are being listed in other neighborhoods.

    Are we breaking even?

  • edited January 2016
    Neighborhood Name: "Crown Heights North". Overall Rank 8, Burglary 10, Assault 17, Auto Theft 43,
This discussion has been closed.