Friday, February 11, 2011

Stumble Safely! Crime maps to the rescue?

Morning sun in Washington, DC

I'm always intrigued by a trip to Washington, D.C. Inside the beltway it has remarkable sights, a successful subway system, sprawling parks, and terrific dining.

Outside the beltway, it's another city. There are wealthy and intriguing neighborhoods - mostly low crime and safe - and blighted and poor neighborhoods to the east - mostly high crime and unsafe.

Once known as Murder City USA, today Washington's crime declines echo the Great American Crime Decline in every other city since 1990s.

Still, high crime and fear remain.

In recent years police have enacted "crime emergencies" allowing the cops to double their manpower at peak times, gang intervention programs and police checkpoints. Though murders are at an all-time low, they are still 5 times the national average.

It is 2 years since the Supreme Court lifted DC's handgun ban. Yet the fear of crime persists. ABC news claims it's the affluent neighborhoods (where crime was already lowest) where gun purchases have spiked - a matter of fear over reality. It's in the poor neighborhoods (where most crime happens) where gun purchases have been dropping!

And now a cool new website - Stumble Safely - is under development in DC. Say's it's promo:

"Stumble Safely helps you find the best bars and a safe path to stumble home on. You can see some of our favorite spots on these maps …It doesn’t matter when or where you start drinking for Stumble Safely to help you."

Websites to prevent crime?

In other words, in spite of the crime declines, police tactics, and gun purchases, perhaps in the end it's everyday community folks coming up with innovative new ideas (like setting up their own websites) that can best improve safety.

Jane Jacobs, it seems, was right.

4 Replies so far - Add your comment

  1. DC is a great city. Heading there in a couple of weeks.

    The stats on the guns reminds me of the Neighborhood Watch program. It doesn't work to prevent crime because it's not sustainable in the neighborhoods that need it the most- the poor neighborhoods. It can be sustained in the affluent ones, but of course, they don't need it. I would guess that the Stumble Safely app is also designed for the more affluent. The question remains as to how we can get "the community folks" most in to come up their own ideas to reduce crime and improve the quality of their lives.

  2. I agree Tim. Like you, I doubt many gang-bangers or homeless folks are bar hopping and need safe routes to stumble home. Still, if anyone benefits from such a website, we're all better off. As you say, the mission in the future is to get more of these ideas for preventing crime. (which is why I created SafeGrowth)

    Personally, I think neighborhood based prevention programs driven "with and by" the community are bound to be more effective than prevention done "to or for" them. That's why I think Neighborhood Watch stumbles so often.

    Check out the Project H design link on the right column and also my Nov 16 blog on Project H - that's another successful example of the kind of thing that will make a difference.

    Thanks again for the great insight.

  3. Dang you seem to be on a Jane Jacobs binge lately. I think she was way ahead of her time.

    As to stumble safely, hard to imagine drunks being safe in any fashion :)

  4. Safe drunks? Good point. You're probably right Mark.

    I suppose you're right also about my Jacobs binge (an intoxication I recommend).

    For me reading Jacobs is like discovering a truth and then seeing it at every turn.

    From "Life and Death" in 1961 to "Dark Age Ahead" in 2005, Jacobs is prescient, clear-headed, and has a mastery of prose absent in most writing on urban problems. If you haven't read her, do.

    Meantime, I'll search for another creative thinker who can turn a phrase and extend our gaze.

    Thanks for the observations.


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