Providence Data Flag Crime as Biggest Threat
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
While the site provides a look at the geographic potential for natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding, earth quakes, and tornadoes, it's the information for crime rates in Providence that can be viewed as the biggest threat to existing and potential residents.
See crime maps and links for Providence -- as well as natural disasters and home value maps -- below.
According to Trulia's "where violent crimes happen" data, the site last year initially launched a "Crime Maps" function for fifty U.S. counties, and then expanded to "Trulia Local", providing data on schools and amenities, to "help house hunters answer the questions, "What's it like to live here?"
The crime data crunching has since been broken down even further, with an additional map mode to show the ratio of violent to non-violent crimes.
"We look at data all the time," said Teny Gross with the Institute for the Study & Practice of Non-Violence in Providence. "There are definitely specific hotspots -- we know for instance that there are oftentimes problems at specific addresses, and once those residents move out, it's no longer a problem."
Gross noted that the Institute has been working recently with Roger Williams Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Sean Varano on a new data collection database to enable the staff and community to best address the information that they have.
"We've been collecting data since we've started, of course," said Gross, noting the new system would provide a better way to document everyone who "touches" the Institute -- from staff, to street workers, to those at risk of violence -- but that wasn't necessarily the answer.
Gross recounted a recent sailing analogy to illustrate the need for both data, as well as experience. "I was out on a boat with the best state of the art equipment, computers. However, the Captain wasn't relying solely on that -- he was paying attention to the wind, and the sails."
"So while we use qualitative analysis, the data side needs to be provided for accountability, no doubt," continued Gross.
Gross acknowledged that a balance was needed in looking at -- and using -- crime data. "Violence is relationship based. We know who is likely to commit a shooting, or get shot. And we need to use that data with the work we do to devise a plan, and divert that potential from becoming a reality."
Role of Big Data Called Into Question
"We're all data -- social security numbers, zip codes, where we went to school, it's all part of our lives," said Cutler. "I take issue though when disparate strands of information are oftentimes put together for a desired outcome. Sometimes it makes sense, but sometimes it does not. Whether you're talking about crime -- or real estate -- we need to talk about processes, get conclusions, not just look at hypothesis."
"Let's look how we can use "big data" effectively in government. The conversation we need to be having is how we can use data as a way to expedite government. We can pay our bills online-- but we need to do more things like improve inspections, zoning."
Urban analyst and GoLocal contributor Aaron Renn agreed with Cutler's assessments. "I think there are a number of applications for big data, but you just have to look to look at EveryBlock, which was supposed to take off -- and it never did. MSNBC gave it a lot of hype. The idea of a pure data aggregator might have been more powerful than the reality."
"Right now, the one-to-one apps seem to be the ones that have the most impact. Bus tracking apps, Starbucks finders," said Renn, who writes about state and local affairs on his website, the Urbanphile. "Lots of whiz bang maps in one place are cool, but what do you do with them?"
Renn pointed to New York City as being at the forefront of data use in the government policy sphere.
"NYC has been able to come up with predictable analytics. For example, looking at data that would predict dangerous fires for building. They then use that to be able to go out and look at structures, and be proactive," relayed Renn. "Smart cities" haven't fully materialized...yet. It's been more incremental. The biggest impact has been in crime prevention. NY, again has been phenomenal."
Renn echoed Teny Gross' sentiment as how data can -- and need -- to be used. "You can saturate crime hotspots for crime prevention. There's visibility, and holding the people who are in charge accountable."
Rhode Island Real Estate Voices Weigh in
"Trulia's like Zillow, and a bunch of other sites," said Arthuer Chapman, with William Raveis. "Expedia may have put travel agents out of business, but I don't that see that as being the same in real estate."
He continued, "Data like this might be helpful in the midwest, where the algorithms show more similarities across listings, but here, they compare the East Side with the rest of Providence, which are practically two different markets. The same would hold true for historic Bristol, or Newport."
Chapman pointed that crime data however was something that, as a rule of thumb, he wouldn't ever discuss with potential renters or buyers.
"One thing [real estate agents] generally don't do is talk about crime," said Champan. "If people ask, I refer them to the local police department to get the data they're requesting."
Tom Flanagan with Residential Properties had a similar viewpoint to Chapman, which is while more information can be obtained on the internet, real estate agents still have a critical role.
"Consumer behavior has become increasingly sophisticated on the web and at the same time, data has become increasingly accessible. Consumers no longer need a real estate professional to drive them around and look at thirty potential homes in any given community like they did twenty years ago."
"They start the home search online or more specifically, on Google, and begin to research on their own accord. They utilize data for price comps, crime reports, neighborhood information and more. When they are ready to contact a realtor, they have already completed the necessary due diligence and narrowed their search criteria down," noting at that point, "Consumers then turn to an experienced real estate pro for an in-depth, professional analysis of the local market, data, schools and navigating the transaction. This is truly the expertise and value proposition a seasoned realtor has to offer."
What parts of Providence are statistically prone to flooding? The darkest blue on this map reveals a statistic 100-year high-risk flood area, according to FEMA's Flood Insurance Study, which includes statistical data for river flow, storm tides, hydrologic/hydraulic analyses, and rainfall and topographic surveys.
Own a home in any of these areas? In high risk areas, there is at least a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. Inmoderate risk areas, the risk of being flooded is reduced but not completely removed. These areas submit over 20% of NFIP claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding.
While relatively rare in Rhode Island, the prospect of tornadoes is not an unknown phenomenon in southern New England.
This Historical Tornado map shows the accumulated energy for each hexagonal grid cell between 1950 - 2011. This layer was created using a technique called "hexagonal binning", which has been an increasingly popular way to visualize large sets of data. In this case, each hexagonal bin was given a color according to the accumulated energy of tornadoes that passed through each grid cell between 1950 and 2011. The wind energy values utilized in the formula were derived from the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
While wildfires may not be the first natural disaster that comes to mind when thinking of Providence and surrounding areas, the data shows that there a pockets of at-risk areas close to urban land, but more likely in suburban to rural areas.
A zoomed out version in this map show much higher potential for wildfires in neighboring Massachusetts.
Trulia combines recent crime data with overall crime rates to produce an intriguing look at Providence crime from a bird's eye view.
The numbers in black circles represent violent crimes by area at the dates reported, which can be clicked on for more detailed information. The colors give a picture of overall violent crime rate among the streets and blocks of the capital city.
This view of non-violent crime incidents in Providence follows the same legend as violent crime: numbers in black circles represent non-violent crimes by area/location that can be clicked on to find more information.
Looking at the previousy crimes map and then this new one, you can now get a sense of which neighborhoods have a lot of reported crime and which have a high proportion of violent crime — both of which would be considered are useful and necessary when looking to rent or buy a home.
Property asking prices
This map shows a range of properties on the Providence market .
House sale prices
What have properties been selling for lately in Providence, and where have they been selling? The map reveals 25 recently sold properties shown with their final sale prices.
Trulia's map is based upon its rentals over the last year and updates monthly. The map makes it easier to visual the economic geography of Providence's neighborhoods. The prices expressed on the map are of average rental prices per bedroom, as assessed per neighborhood.
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