John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Where it's "safe" to live if you're more worried about cops than criminals.
Most crime maps show you the thievery, destruction, and bloodshed committed by, you know, criminals.
This one for San Francisco is a bit different: It purports to show the parts of the city that have reputations for profiling and harassment, as well as the locations over the past decade of officer-involved shootings. "Home.Land.Security." invites you into a world of mistrust for the Man by first asking you to enter an address. Then you have the option to switch on several layers of crime data to see how "safe" that neighborhood is. Should you be more worried about cops than muggers and carjackers?
The unusual project, which garnered special attention this weekend at a UC Berkeley mapping contest, is the work of urban-planning and environmental science students at UCLA. They created it with city data because they wanted to ace a course in web programming, and also "try to flip the script on crime and safety," they explain:
Home.Land.Security. was designed to represent unsafe, threatening, and harmful spaces as experienced by the most vulnerable communities. We were moved by the murders of Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant and many other cases of physical and emotional violence against people from marginalized communities. While many communities have a good relationship with law enforcement, for many others – including people of color, queer folks, and undocumented immigrants – police presence is itself a threat. We found many websites mapping crime data provided by police departments, but none mapping how safe different places might be for society’s most vulnerable people....
[W]e hope that this site will highlight spatial and demographic patterns of excessive force and aid both citizens and policymakers in preventing future incidents.
The students give particular attention to quality-of-life crimes because they "may be disproportionately enforced in particular neighborhoods/communities." In other words, these arrests could be colored by police harassment. They break the infractions down into public drunkenness (labeled "A"), narcotics ("N"), disturbing the peace ("D"), and prostitution or indecent exposure ("S"). Let's see where the po-pos are cracking down on drug use:
That's a lot of activity in the Tenderloin, no surprise to anybody who's ever walked through that needle-infested 'hood. Sexwork busts shift a little southward into SoMa and the Mission:
Here's all four categories together:
Enforcement is fairly heavy in the downtown core. Other notable areas of police presence include Bayview, the Mission, and the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park, where verdant parkland is dotted with clusters of weed-smoking and sometimes crazily yelling individuals. (During a recent walk through the area, I was approached by three different nug-salesmen in the span of 5 minutes.) That arrow in the middle of the map, if you're wondering, simply represents whatever neighborhood you've clicked on; doing so pulls up its crime stats and a "safety ranking" based on number of crime citations and police shootings. In this example, I've selected Bernal Heights:
For citizens concerned about going to jail or taking a city-bought bullet, the least-safe place to be is the Downtown/Civic Center 'hood, to believe this map:
Anybody out there enjoy making correlations? You'll probably want to play around with other layers devoted to San Francisco's demographics. Here's where residents have educational backgrounds amounting to "some college or more"; darkest orange represents those with the most formal education, beige the least, and light orange somewhere in the middle:
Then there are the police shootings. The mapmakers included this info because, they say, in "many less-resourced neighborhoods, queer communities and communities of color, police have created dangerous spaces through the disproportionate use of force and violence." Shootings from 2000 to 2011 group closely around the downtown corridor, with lesser concentrations in the Mission, Potrero Hill, and the Castro:
Clicking on any of these red guns brings up the facts of the incident, like these from a 2009 non-fatal shooting in Bernal Heights at the scene of a residential burglary: "Two officers first contacted the suspect on the top floor of the premise, and the suspect was armed with a pry bar. The suspect forcibly knocked one officer down a flight of stairs. The officer discharged and hit the suspect."
And a lethal one from deep downtown: "On June 13, 2001 at 23:23 hours, officers responded to a call of a person with a knife at 101 4th Street. The suspect swung a knife on a chain at the officers. The knife cut through the clothing of one of the officers. Officers discharged their firearms resulting in death of the suspect and an officer wounded."