Avoiding dangerous neighborhoods

Switching agencies has forced me to change my business travel habits a little bit. Instead of frequent trips to NYC where I am chauffeured around in the finest taxis the city has to offer, I’ve been driving to more “local” clients. Local being Hartford, CT or Framingham, MA. And because these are not bustling metropolises (metropoli?) I’ve found myself spending a lot of time in Zipcars.

And because I have a terrible sense of direction, especially in places I have never been before, I have been relying on my GPS app on my phone. A Lot.

I should start out by telling you that I have a shitty GPS app. It’s the free MapQuest app. It does get you from point A to point B, but it frequently re-calculates the route (although not actually making changes). But I digress. The point is, I’m spending a lot of time driving around listening to my GPS interrupt the music (I LOVE the AUX cable in Zipcars).

Today, when I was leaving the client site and heading for the hotel, some team members who were sticking around longer than me asked if I knew how to get to the hotel. When I told them I’d use my GPS, they said “no, no, no you can’t. It will send you through the ghetto.” So instead of the GPS I wrote down their directions and spent the entire ride looking at the directions, looking at my real time location on the Google Maps app and driving much slower than I probably should have.

But it raises an interesting question, could GPS manufacturers ever create an “avoid ghetto” feature? How would it work? Who would determine what was “the ghetto?” Could it be based on real-time police crime stats? I’d love a feature like this. But I can also imagine there are a lot of people who wouldn’t like it. Some of the possible problems are:

  • It would probably be pretty discriminatory. It would be really hard for a company like Google or Garmin to declare an area “ghetto” and divert all traffic from it and NOT get called racist, or classist.
  • It would make things really awkward for someone who lived in that neighborhood. Especially the first time they used the GPS and were unable to get to their house.
  • It’s totally subjective. What one person considers a dangerous neighborhood, many others might be fine with. or vice versa.

Which is why I think it should be tied to real-time police data. Several cities have begun opening up the data streams for all their offices to allow innovators to use the data however they choose. DontEat.at is a good example of this. What would it take to enable this? Some sort of algorithm that compares density of police reports of violent crime versus a potential GPS plotted route? If the density is too high, it routes the driver around through a lower crime density area.

What do you think? Would you buy a GPS that offered this feature? Do you think the company would get in a lot trouble for releasing it?

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About Ezra Englebardt
Account planner, digital nerd, marketing guru, tweeter, occasional blogger, cyclist, snowboarder, mountain biker, social media junkie and avid reader. CU-Boulder and Boston College alum. Frequent guest speaker in Boston-area universities.

One Response to Avoiding dangerous neighborhoods

  1. I think they should use police data but use statistics for random crime such as homicides, assaults and other violent crimes but not burglary as much since wealthy neighbors get burglarized too. I don’t know how accurate it would be though because many crimes are committed when people know each other (family members, spouses attacking each other). These have no bearing on the safety of a neighborhood overall.

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