Google and New York City could ruin communities and lower property values

Poverty tends to breed crime. While I am not defending criminals, the financial status into which a person is born has a huge impact on their likelihood to become a criminal. Being born poor does not guarantee a person will be a criminal, but it definitely increases the odds. Being born into a wealthy family definitely lessens a need to steal. Not only that, but the wealthy can afford a better education for their children.

Sadly, this often becomes a vicious cycle -- poverty is handed down from generation to generation. For example, a poor person is more likely to steal, and people that are caught stealing are more likely to end up in jail, which will give them a criminal record. Last year, New York City passed a law requiring the creation of a crime map. The city partnered with Google, to accomplish the goal. Unfortunately, this is a horrible idea which can potentially ruin communities and lower property values.

"We worked with the NYPD to release the NYC Crime Map. We used Google Maps Engine to layer information about specific crime incidents -- including felonies like murder, rape and theft -- on top of a Google Map. Now New Yorkers have a tool at their fingertips to quickly assess the safety of their surroundings through the familiar Google Map interface. People planning a move can search specific addresses before relocating. Neighborhood and community organizations use the map to view patterns over a certain period of time to understand, for instance, whether crime has increased in the area of a new nightclub", says Colin Reilly, Director, NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

Reilly further explains, "before starting the project we assessed several open-source tools, but we chose Google Maps for Business because it allowed us to develop the map quickly and without the need for specialized GIS skills. Google hosts all of the data in the cloud as well, which allows us to focus on our core mission -- developing innovative technology solutions for the New York City. Thanks to Google Maps, the NYC Crime Map can handle large volumes of traffic -- a third of which comes from mobile devices -- which we couldn't have managed on our own".

In theory, this sounds like a good idea. Empowering people to avoid high crime areas is a good thing, right? Not so fast. If people avoid high crime areas, the areas themselves could suffer, causing even worse conditions. It could cause people to stop visiting restaurants or entertainment venues in the area. Ultimately, this could ruin a neighborhood and lower the property values.

The people who are punished by this map are likely the people that need the most help -- people in poverty or lower classes. Marking entire communities with a warning sign is in poor taste and comes off as elitist. Remember, most people did not choose to live in a high crime area -- that is just where they landed. Good people live and work in these areas too.

What do you think of this crime map? Tell me in the comments.

Image Credit:  Iaroslav Neliubov/Shutterstock

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