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Neighborhood Scout

America’s worst neighborhoods and the push for more security

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

For residents of the 25 most dangerous neighborhoods in America, terrorism probably doesn’t top their list of concerns. But with video surveillance in the spotlight after the Boston bombing, those cities now have a chance to take advantage of the attack in the name of safety.

The danger list, presented last week by the research website Neighborhood Scout, includes the usual suspects. Detroit, Chicago and Flint, Mich., all made the lineup, with Detroit taking the top three spots based on the predicted number of violent crimes per 1,000 neighborhood residents.

No surprise there. What is surprising is the number of smaller cities that are cited, places that aren’t typically associated with murder, rape, armed robbery and aggravated assault. A neighborhood in Greenville, S.C., comes in at No. 8, Indianapolis shows up twice, and even Nashville takes a hit—residents of the Eighth Avenue South/Wedgewood Avenue area have a 1-in-14 chance of being a victim of violent crime in any given year.

"So many people think, well, I live in a medium city so it can't be that bad, not like big cities like New York or Los Angeles," Andrew Schiller, the founder of Neighborhood Scout, told The Huffington Post. "But those cities aren't that dangerous overall—of course they have dangerous neighborhoods—but they aren't nearly as dangerous as places like Indianapolis."

Schiller’s contention is backed by FBI data from more than 17,000 local law enforcement agencies, making it tough to dispute. For the cities on the list, it can only be seen as a black eye. But for those who see better security through video surveillance, it’s an opportunity to add to a growing chorus in the wake of the Boston bombing.

In the past three weeks, there has been an official push for more video cameras—and for greater integration of surveillance systems—in cities including Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles. The successful use of video in identifying the suspects in Boston has tempered criticism of the cost and given rise to discussion of public and private partnerships to share video data.

"If [a company has] a camera that films an area we're interested in, then why put up a separate camera?" said Dennis Storemski, director of Houston’s office of public safety and homeland security, in an interview with The Associated Press. "And we allow them to use ours too."

That kind of cooperation holds promise for cutting crime and increasing arrests, but only if the network is properly set up, integrated and monitored. Success will also hinge on addressing privacy concerns and fears that freedom will fall prey to technology run amok, especially if the surveillance extends beyond city centers and into residential areas like those cited by Neighborhood Scout.

 “Look, we don't want an occupied state. We want to be able to walk the good balance between freedom and security," Deputy Chief Michael Downing of the Los Angeles police told The Associated Press. "If this helps prevent [and] deter but also detect … who did [a crime], I guess the question is can the American public tolerate that type of security.”

Right now the smart money is on “yes.”