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FAQ on How We Rank the Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods

Frequently Asked Questions

+ Q. What is this list about?
+ Q. How do you define a “neighborhood?”
+ Q. Where do you get your data, and what year is it from?
+ Q. How do you build your neighborhood crime data?
+ Q. How does NeighborhoodScout’s research compare to other crime data providers?
+ Q. How can a neighborhood be on your list that I believe to be a safe neighborhood?
+ Q. Why rank places on safety even though the FBI cautions against it?
+ Q. Crime has been going down in a city, so how can it still have neighborhoods that are some of the nation's most dangerous?
+ Q. When I click through to see the crime details for a neighborhood, NeighborhoodScout’s overall Crime Rating doesn’t show the neighborhood as one of the most dangerous. Why is that?
+ Q. What are the definitions for each type of violent crime?
+ Q. Can I get a Crime Report specific to my business address?
+ Q. I like what I see. Can I get your crime data via an API for Corporate use?

Q. What is this list about?

A. Our research reveals the 25 most dangerous neighborhoods in America based on the predicted number of violent crimes per 1,000 neighborhood residents. The Violent crimes included in this research are the violent crimes from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports: homicide, forcible rape, armed robbery, and aggravated assault.

NeighborhoodScout defines neighborhoods as census tracts, which are the official government designation for a neighborhood, so we can be consistent nationwide in our definition and boundaries.

To be considered for this list, the neighborhood has to have at least 800 year-round residents, and be primarily residential in character, although it does not have to be completely residential. The neighborhood also has to reside in a community whose law enforcement agency(ies) reported to the FBI.

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Q. How do you define a “neighborhood?”

A. NeighborhoodScout uses the official government designation for neighborhoods - the census tract.

Census tracts are small subdivisions of a county that are defined by the U.S. Census Bureau and local authorities all across the country to define real neighborhoods that contain areas with homogeneous population characteristics (including economic status, lifestyle, and living conditions).

Census tracts usually have 4,000 persons, but can range between 1,500 and 8,000 persons. This is the most fine-grained area for which detailed information is made available from the government, to protect the individual privacy of each of us. Because census tracts are based on population, they vary in size depending on the density of settlement. In urban areas, they are small, and in rural areas they can cover an entire small town or even a few small towns in very rural areas.

Since census tracts are subdivisions of a county, we did a spatial overlay of the census tracts onto city and town boundaries using a geographic information system to properly assign each census tract to its appropriate city or town. Then we named each census tract to the local colloquially recognized neighborhood name for that spot (e.g., Boston, MA (Dorchester)). If there was not a name available, we named the census tract by the largest street intersection in the census tract (e.g., Worcester, MA (Lincoln St/Plantation St)).

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Q. Where do you get your data, and what year is it from?

A. Neighborhood population data we use are the latest available directly from the US Bureau of the Census at the time of this analysis (2012).

Crime data we use are the most recent data the FBI classifies as 'Final, non-preliminary.'  It is the most up-to-date and fully vetted data with complete national coverage that is available.  We insist on using Final, Non-Preliminary data for our analyses and analytics, rather than basing our research on preliminary data that may need to be updated or have errors in it. 

For this research report, it is the 2012 year total data, released in Final, Non-Preliminary form in November, 2013.  At the time of this report, the 2013 year total crime data is not complete.  The FBI is still working through data issues and reporting issues before that data can be considered Final, and Non-Preliminary. 

We use the latest Final, Non-Preliminary data for our analysis to assure the best quality information and to treat every neighborhood equally.  The 2013 data will be considered Final, Non-Preliminary sometime in the fall of 2014. When it is, we will re-run our analytics and our analysis, and produce a new updated ranking list. Until then, what we are using is the most recent Final Data with complete national coverage as per the FBI.

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Q. How do you build your neighborhood crime data?

A. The crime rates we have developed are based on data and crime statistics from the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department. We gather data from all 17,000 local law enforcement agencies in the United States, and use a relational database to associate crime incidences from all of these law enforcement agencies to the specific local communities the agency covers, and hence in which community the crimes have occurred.

We then researched and developed mathematical algorithms to statistically estimate the incidences of violent crimes for each neighborhood in America. The resultant formulae produce numbers of crimes and crime rates for neighborhoods with upwards of 90% accuracy in most cases. We use a total of twenty different formulas to increase the accuracy of our estimates, and apply them based on city or town characteristics, to produce the best model fit in each case.

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Q. How does NeighborhoodScout’s research compare to other crime data providers?

A. Thousands of cities nationwide - both large and small - have multiple agencies with law enforcement responsibility. These include municipal police, county sheriff, transit police, campus police, public school police, park and port police, tribal police, and more. Since many cities are served by more than one law enforcement agency, our exclusive analysis includes crimes reported by all agencies.

We accomplish this by collecting raw crime data from all 17,000 law enforcement agencies in America. Then we use a relational database built from the ground up to assign reported crimes from each agency to the city where it has law enforcement responsibility. This method provides an accurate representation of the complete number and types of crimes that truly occur within any city or town, not just crimes reported by a single municipal agency.

We then researched and developed mathematical algorithms to statistically estimate the incidences of violent crimes for each neighborhood in America. The resultant formulae produce numbers of crimes and crime rates for neighborhoods with upwards of 90% accuracy in most cases. We use a total of twenty different formulas to increase the accuracy of our estimates, and apply them based on city or town characteristics, to produce the best model fit in each case.

We do this same process for every neighborhood in the United States, due to the agency-centric way that crimes are reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, rather than reporting crime in a location-centric way.  That is, our analysis is not to find the agencies who report the most violent crimes, but rather the neighborhoods which have the highest rates of violent crime, as reported by all of the agencies with law enforcement responsibility within the neighborhood’s respective city or town.

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Q. How can a neighborhood be on your list that I believe to be a safe neighborhood?

A. Some neighborhoods have reputations for safety that are not supported by crime statistics. Click on any neighborhood in the list to see a complete breakdown of violent crime counts and rates for that neighborhood. (Sorry, some detail is reserved for subscribers only.)

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Q. Why rank places on safety even though the FBI cautions against it?

A. The FBI’s message is focused on how different circumstances, such as economy, transience, demographics and other things beyond the control of a law enforcement agency can cause higher rates of crime, and therefore, the main focus of the message is that it is not fair to judge or rank the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies by the rates of crime in the communities they serve. We agree.

But our ranking is not about agencies. It is not ranking or rating the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies. It is about places. It ranks the relative safety of places using rates of violent crime per 1,000 residents. This is like rating the safety of automobiles. As such, the public has a right to know how safe a car is, just like they have the right to know how the safety of any place compares to others. It is not a judgment of law enforcement as circumstances are different in each locality and law enforcement does the best they can. Rather, it is an assessment of safety of the city or locale that should be publicly available.

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Q. Crime has been going down in a city, so how can it still have neighborhoods that are some of the nation's most dangerous?

A. Crime has recently been going down nationwide. If other areas have crime that is going down faster, then that city will still be more dangerous. A place may be getting safer, but other places may be getting safer faster.

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Q. When I click through to see the crime details for a neighborhood, NeighborhoodScout’s overall Crime Rating doesn’t show the neighborhood as one of the most dangerous. Why is that?

A. The Crime Index is based on the crime rate per 1,000 population for all crimes in the neighborhood including property crimes, not just violent crimes. Since property crimes are often far more prevalent than violent crimes, they can influence the overall Crime Index. The list of the 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America is based on the rate of violent crimes – not property crimes. Look to see the violent crime rate shown on the neighborhood crime profile for the data used in developing this list. Note that the list is limited to neighborhoods of 800 or more residents year-round. (Sorry, some detail is reserved for subscribers only.)

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Q. What are the definitions for each type of violent crime?

A. ARMED ROBBERY The taking or attempting to take anything of value from a person(s) by force or threat of violence. AGGRAVATED ASSAULT An attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. FORCIBLE RAPE The carnal knowledge of a person forcibly and against their will. Statutory offenses are excluded. HOMICIDE The willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another.

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Q. Can I get a Crime Report specific to my business address?

A. Yes. Crime varies far more between neighborhoods within a city, than between most cities. Our data are also built to provide address-specific crime risk information. You can get an instant, objective, and quantitative Crime and Security Assessment Report for any address by going here: www.SecurityGauge.com

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Q. I like what I see. Can I get your crime data via an API for Corporate use?

A. Yes. Please go to www.LocationInc.com to see our data products and to contact us to discuss your needs.

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