Crime Map of Washington DC

Ed. Note: The following maps were made by Sarah Hank.

Dear PoPville,

I’m a GIS Analyst, a map-maker, by trade, and so I thought I’d use DC’s awesome crime stats website to download some detailed crime data and visualize exactly where crime is taking place and how much it’s changed in the past year.

I’ve made 2 interactive maps to share with you. One shows the total crimes committed in the past year (July ’11 – July ’12) per census block group, and the other shows the change in number of crimes committed in the same period of time. If you mouse over the map, a box will pop up and show you more details.

Some points of interest: The area near Chinatown, around 10th and G NW, has the highest number of crimes at 1018. That is the highest by almost 300. The highest number of homicides in 1 census block group is 6, in the “Eastland Gardens” neighborhood (near the arboretum and Anacostia Park), where Kenilworth Ave exits the district. The next highest is 3, and there are 14 areas where there was more than 1 homicide. The most common crime was theft, with 10,574 incidents in the entire district. You can visit the MPD website to get definitions on each type of crime.

Total Crime:

Change in Crime:

92 Comment

  • This is awesome. Maybe it will help shake out some preconceived, unwarranted notions about which areas are “no-go” zones.

    Look at Trinidad and Near Northeast as prime examples.

    • Exactly. Confirms what those of us who live in the area and know what it is really like have been saying. I’m sure someone will say “well Trinidad isn’t as dense as other areas” which is true, but Trinidad is almost entirely residential and will never be as dense as the areas that are getting high rise condos and other development. And the people moving here are primarily middle class which will continue to drive the crime rate lower.

    • Two homicides — looking great!

    • This map is very helpful, but it doesn’t take into consideration population density unfortunately. If you have 20 people walking in the streets, and 2 of them killed that’s alot scarier than if you have 4000 people walking in the steets and 2 of them killed.

      • I agree, and would love to see 0 homicides in Trinidad. Both of the homicides included in this data though were domestic. Still tragic but it’s not like random people are getting gunned down in the street as some people seem to think.

      • It’s a pretty simple step to include that. Maybe I’ll try!

    • Great point, SF – visual information one of the best ways to combat ignorance, misconceptions. This map is a great tool, although depressing at times..

  • My nerdy math/stats side loves this, thanks for putting together!

  • Nice work, Sarah. i think they’d be more interesting or informative if I could filter by type of crime rather than lumping everything together.

    • It would also be useful to see the crime stats as a percentage of number of residents. Crime’s gone up in my area (thankfully nothing violent) but I think that’s because there are a lot more people living, working, and visiting here.

      • This! Nominal numbers aren’t very useful… A better statistic would be # of crimes / pop

        • Some people find them very useful, actually, it’s just that different types of statistics are better-suited for different applications. Knowing the number of crimes per resident* [see note at end] would tell a resident more about his or her own personal risk of becoming a crime victim; however, knowing the absolute number of crimes would tell a police chief more about where to patrol to have the biggest impact in an absolute impact.

          *Note: In some of these places, like residential neighborhoods, number of crimes per capita is probably a reasonable approximation of a resident’s risk of being a crime victim (ignoring issues like type of crime, random vs. domestic, etc., that’s another issue for another post). However, in an area where few people live but lots of people work or visit, number of crimes per capita would severely inflate the estimated risk, because the number of potential crime victims would be many times larger than the number of residents.

          • Totally agree, you need to understand what you are measuring and what you are hoping to achieve with your analysis. Given that the vast majority of discussions on PoP are tied to where to live / rent I thought that a crimes / pop would be more appropriate for the audience.

  • PDMtP

    Thanks for doing this!

  • Interestingly, there are quieter parts of east-of-the-river.

    • Yes, but I think a lot of crime over there goes unreported.

      • I used to live in one of the <50 Crimes regions and it certainly wasn't as safe as most of the darker areas on the map. When we were burglarized the neighbors told us we shouldn't get the police involved, but we didn't listen. The police saw a hookah in our apartment and were threatening us with jail time for having drug paraphenalia. It was completely ridiculous and we stood our ground, but it was basically a ploy to bully us into not reporting the crime. With nonsense like that happening, and the no snitching policy, it's no wonder some of these areas look like they're doing much better than they are.

    • Interestingly? As if you expected all of wards 7 and 8 to be war zones?

  • I love this too — the only thing I think gets complicated is when you think about how much foot traffic those areas get. So for example, the downtown area that’s mentioned as having the most crime also gets a LOT of people walking through it — much more than some of the more residential areas with what looks like less crime. But the “per capita” crime rate would probably be much lower. Interestingly, the Dupont-Farragut area also has a seemingly high number of crimes, but the same thing is true as far as the number of people.

    Great resource in general though — thank you!

  • as a GIS analyst myself im wondering if these maps accounted for population? an area with a high amount of people will have more crime just by volume while not being necessarily more violent than another area

  • Awesome! Once I zoom in, can I scroll up and down? I need to see streets to know neighborhoods. I may just be an idiot with this though.

  • Very interesting! Thanks to Sarah Hanks for putting these together.

  • Very nice work!

  • This is really interesting! I was surprised to see crime in my census tract (Capitol Hill-Stanton Park) has nearly doubled from one year to the next. I’d be interested in seeing the differences from more than a year back, maybe 2009-2012 compared to 1999-2002 to account for year to year differences. Though obviously this is impressive work!

    • MPD Crime stats only go back to 2006 online but I had this thought too…

    • I’m the one who commented at 11:54 above, and I live in SE Capitol Hill. I think there’s been such an explosion of development in the area (and nearby neighborhoods) that more people living and spending time here. That would naturally drive the numbers up, although I do think there’s been a rash of theft-related crimes recently.

      • That’s definitely true of the SE part of the Hill, but where I am (north of East Capitol, south of Stanton Park), there hasn’t been a whole lot of change beyond renovated rowhouses. I guess the numbers are still relatively low, so this could just be a result of normal fluctuations.

        • I don’t think development has to be in the immediate area to have a positive effect on the number of people in the neighborhood. It used to be that people never spent time East of the Capitol. Now you have H Street, the Yards/Stadium area, and Barracks Row luring people to the Hill. Lots of new people moving in, looking at houses, going to restaurants, etc. People are more willing to walk around and are more likely to have a false sense of security (which can lead to more iPhones being snatched out of people’s hands).

  • Hey guys, thanks for all the useful comments! I agree this would be more useful if combined with population data. Send me any other thoughts you have on maps you’d like to see and I’ll see what I can do! Anything re: DC that you think data might exist for.

    • I would adjust for population, if possible also taking into account the number of people who work or otherwise spend time there. I would also apply weights to different types of crime (i.e. violent crimes are “worth” more than petty theft). The weighing is subject to objectivity, of course, but it would paint a better picture of what neighborhoods are genuinely unsafe.

    • Perfect: enable toggling on or off each type of crime.

      Good: make a separate set of maps for violent crime.

      Violent crime is what makes a neighborhood unsafe.

    • did you do this on ArcGIS Online?

  • To Sarah Hank:

    Thanks so much for taking the time out to do this and using your amazing skills – it is helpful and fascinating to see such detailed information. Again, really appreciate the awesomeness you did for this community.

  • Allison

    Amazing– I love GIS and all its glory!

    After a friend had a drink roofied in Chinatown one night, and hearing that MPD does not record these activities (usually b/c there is no evidence) I got the idea that there should be an online GIS map where women can self-report having been roofied. That way, other women can log on and notice hot spots at any particular establishment. It can also serve to notify bars whether their tenders and servers (who are trained to spot this kind of thing) should be on alert. This would be a great idea to partner with Hollaback D.C..

    Self-reporting carries a risk of abuse though, similar to the manipulation that goes on with Yelp reviews.

    What do y’all think?

    • That is one of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time.

      • Allison

        Thanks! I’ve been thinking about it for over a year, but the hugemongousness of it is kind of a lot for me to process. I have an undergrad minor in geography so I’ve done some GIS, but I don’t think it’s something I would want to attempt to accomplish or manage alone, with the whole being busy in law school thing. Maybe I’ll write someone at Hollaback and see what they think.

    • I guess it’s a good idea, but since nobody I have ever known or heard of (until your story) has experienced this I don’t know if it’s enough of a problem to warrant all that. Does this really happen a lot?

      • Allison

        Re: does this happen a lot: yes, an astonishing amount.

        • Can you define “astonishing”? I don’t doubt that it happens but I have no personal knowledge of any incidents so have no idea how widespread this problem is.

        • Allison,
          For those of us who don’t know them, what are the signs of being roofied? And in terms of the frequency, are you talking about incidents of women being (or feeling they were) drugged without more, or are you talking about being both drugged and subjected to unconsented sexual contact?

          • Allison

            I can’t speak for every woman, but as far as I’ve been told by two women who have personally experienced this, it entails blacking out despite *definitely* not having enough to drink for this to occur.

            One blacked out after only one glass of wine, another after a single vodka sour. Thankfully, neither of them were hurt because they A) got home in time and/or B) had a person watching out for them.

            One went to a hosptial and was informed no hospital in D.C. tests for GHB, or other comparable drugs, and she would have to visit a private doctor. No private doctor was open until Monday, and by that time the drug had left her system. (This is roughly comparable to the situation in D.C. where only one hospital is equipped with rape kits, to my knowledge.)

            I wouldn’t think that sexual assault necessarily had to be the result in order for a woman to use such a self reporting website.

          • Allison @2:40
            Thanks for the insight. It’s hard for me to believe that with the large number of colleges and universities in this town, and the presence of more than one leading medical institution, no hospital can test for date rape drugs. Also hard to believe only one hospital has rape kits. I hope neither of these is true. Otherwise it’s basically giving a big fat green light to rapists.

      • How do you know nobody you’ve ever known has been roofied? Do you think women shout this sort of thing from the rooftops? Please keep in mind that just because no women have told you about being victimized (by being roofied, sexually assaulted, raped, etc.) does not mean you don’t know any women who’ve been victimized.

    • I bet you could use Ushahidi platform to make a map service like this. Here is an example of one: http://harassmap.org/main?l=en_US I volunteered with this org while living in Cairo. Women (mostly) text them when they experience street harassment, a huge problem in Egypt, and the incident is plotted on a map. I’m not sure about the technical details, but I’m pretty sure it’s something anyone can set up.

    • There was a spate of men getting roofied a few months ago, too….waking up with broken bones, bloody gashes, and black eyes.

      • Yes, this happened to a friend of mine and it sounded horrible. He barely drinks at all so we know he wasn’t wildly intoxicated.

      • Allison

        Iriving– you’re totally right. Sorry I limited my original post to women, of course men should be able to use such a website as well.

    • FYI, several studies have shown persons are frequently wrong when they think they have been drugged with roofies. See here:

      http://m.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/apr/03/ukcrime.drugsandalcohol?cat=uk&type=article

      2 out of over 1000 persons who thought they had been given roofies had. That’s it. Still a disgusting practice. And f**k rapists.

  • This is great! While I agree that crimes per capita would be a better measurement, I am wondering if the available data would actually distort this more. I.e. not many people live in the downtown area relative to other neighborhoods, but traffic is still very high.

    • I imagine a lot of the downtown thefts are shoplifting.

    • Great work! Okay, per capita could be tricky. Perhaps it would be easier to get a count of cellphones since the census is only once every ten years and the growing density around the city is centered in large multi-unit buildings? Perhaps there’s a correlation betwen propertty tax assessments (public info) and crime?

      • well the census count just occurred so the numbers should be pretty accurate. you could just make a crime rate for each category by dividing crime totals by population. then maybe create both a violent crime map and a petty crime map to see a comparison. “Crime” as a general term is too broad to see whats really going on in a neighborhood.

        • The real complexity is in non-residential neighborhoods with lots of people working, visiting, or otherwise just “there.” The number of residents of Brightwood is a reasonable approximation of the number of potential crime victims in Brightwood. The number of residents of Farragut or Chinatown is probably a somewhat less good approximation of the number of crime victims in those areas. I don’t know if there is a good source of data to estimate the number of people physically present in a non-residential neighborhood, or if these require altogether different types of analysis that might need to be presented separately.

  • conflating petty crime like theft and serious crimes like armed robbery doesnt help.

    car break ins happen across the city. However, in some areas of the city (bloomingdale) violent crime is way down, while petty crime is way up.

    Combining them skews the perception even more.

    • +1

      I’d be very interesting to see maps for violent crime. Thefts from auto and robberies do not make a neighborhood equally unsafe.

      • It does make your property unsafe…

        • Of course it does. But everyone values life over property.

        • Your property is pretty much unsafe in most areas of most cities (if not most places overall) of this country. Leave 10 laptops out in 10 different cities and odds are 1 or 2 of them are going to get picked up by honest people. Leave a GPS out in a car in dupont or a car in anacostia and you run a pretty good risk of getting it stolen.

          The real distinguisher between high and low crime is violent crime and crime involving a victim, even if they’re unharmed (non-violent muggings) Thats what scares people, thats what catches headlines, and ultimately the rate of these determines what peoples perceptions are.

          On the issue of population, there’s no real way to do this accurately. Do you measure it by resident density? or by visitor frequency? There’s no way to get data on the later. Lefant plaza has very few residents, but many visitors on a daily basis. Brookland has fewer visitors compared to the number of residents. How do you measure crime on a per capita basis and correct for this?

  • Your findings make sense about the 10th and G St. areas in Chinatown. Anyone who has been there, specially towards the evenings can see the amount of people who are there – Office people going home, tourists, teenagers, people going to eat out etc.

    The more the people, the higher the crime rate would tend to be. And then again, everyone who has been there probably knows about the trouble the teenagers hanging out in Chinatown cause. Almost everytime I go there I see someone being handcuffed underneath the Huge AT&T billboard next to the gate.

  • How do I open the map in a larger window? The key takes up half the map.

  • Another problem is getting the crime stats (in a timely manner) from other organizations rather than just MPD. It would be nice to have stats from WMATA, University campus police, etc. I look at Brookland and would like to see stats from crime from the Brookland Metro and Catholic University as well. Last time I looked i didn’t see data feeds for those.

    • I thought they were all included, because while campuses and wmata have their own police forces, they don’t have their own prosecution and their own courts. The crimes still happen in DC, its just a different department doing the arresting.

  • I’m alarmed by how much crime there was in the Potomac River, according to the first map. Did not realize it was such an unsafe area.

    • The river is included because that is how the census tracts were drawn to account for the entire city.

  • Great map! Good job!

    I’d love to see companion maps that show crime for the MD and VA suburbs. The related story to all of this is that crime is rising in those places and that social service organizations and funding need to shift there. Many Americans, however, are not willing to admit this reality and continue to pretend that poverty and crime are an “urban” rather than “suburban” phenomen.

  • This is a great idea! Thanks for doing it.
    As someone who has repeatedly heard the “crime is down” mantra, I am surprised to see that according to the “change in crime” map, crimes (defined generally) appear to have increased in half if not most of the city. Query whether the big increases in pockets of NW are as significant as the big increases in pockets of SE.

  • You’re missing the bigger picture–most crime goes unreported! So if you are only mapping reported offenses, you’re missing half the story. Victimization data are needed to get a better appreciate for the scope of crime in any city. Unfortunately, these data do not exist on a city level basis.

    • Yes, that was my complaint above. In the poor neighborhoods it’s especially common for people to not report crime because they don’t trust the police, or the police talk them out of it or convince them to downgrade it to a lesser crime to make their stats look better. Or they’re afraid of retribution from the person that commited the crime, or they just don’t have the time and energy to do something that probably won’t make the situation better for them personally. If your house is broken into, you don’t have renter’s insurance, you’re busy working three jobs, and you know you’re going to be harassed by the police who will appear to be totally disinterested in actaully finding the culprit– why report it at all?

      • Or they are related to the criminal and don’t want to get him or her in trouble or they believe that bad behavior isn’t all that bad, perhaps because they engage in some themselves. I’m just sayin’ to be accurate.

    • It sounds like what you are saying is “if you can’t tell the whole story, why tell any of it.” I don’t agree. Change the name of the maps from “Crimes Committed” to “Crimes Reported” and they still contain useful information.
      The map you are looking for is impossible to create. How does one get an accurate count of unreported crimes? How do you get people to report their failure to report a crime?

      • Quite simply, you ask them. It’s worked since the early 1970’s when the NCVS (formerly the NCS) was initiated.

        You can certainly tell “part” of the story, but you have to acknowledge that the part you are telling may distort reality given all the missing data.

        • Well, MPD is most certainly not only telling part of the story, or at least not failing to acknowledge that only part of the story is being told. If you go to their website and read the disclaimer for the Crime Map feature, it says

          “This website allows the public to query the Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC) database for reported crime statistics.”

          So there is an acknowledgement that the story you are getting is based on reported crimes. I don’t buy the idea that asking people will give an accurate count of unreported crimes. There are probably plenty of people who would not admit to not reporting a crime. What do you do then – take a survey to find out how many people did not report their failure to report a crime?
          Anyhoo – I think the two maps presented are quite useful in their own right.

          • I strongly disagree. Much work has gone into victimization survey’s leading to a strong consensus among criminologists that they are a more accurate measure of crime.

            http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/NACJD/NCVS/

            If interested I can point you to more information regarding the three main types of crime data (official reported offenses, self reports, and victimization surveys). I think if you had a bit more background on the history of crime measurement you would come to similar conclusions.

      • 1. Agreed.

        2. There are certainly some subsets of crimes (e.g., homicides) that tend to be reported almost 100% of the time.

  • This map seems to only present the % change since 7/11.

    What I would be interested in seeing is the annual totals of various crimes by zip code or better yet by ZIP + 4.

    map where you could enter an address or zip or zip+4 and have it take you right down to a very specific location or neighborhood.

  • Thank you for confirming my own GIS studies from last semester! I looked at crime before and after DC USA was opened and was surprised to find that crime has only gone up!

  • I like the map but it needs more clarity or accuracy. For example, Trinidad is one neighborhood but is has 7 different crime numbers and percentage changes. It need more clarity.

  • Wow–neat! Great work, Sarah! :)

  • While this is a neat map, something not too many people seem to be taking into account is that this is just the change in crime from one year to the next… not the absolute amount of crime. Which means that if you had a spike in your neighborhood last year, green doesn’t mean much. Plus, it’s not a percentage change, so we don’t know there was a drop in > 20 incidents from a base of 50, 100, or 500 (or, as people noted, in what types of crimes).

    Agreed that this is interesting, but it’s not really clear what story it tells.

  • I think it would be interesting to see a map showing the density of those perpetrating the crimes to see where those who are committing crimes reside.

Comments are closed.