Screen Shot

A bad idea that won't go away.

Update: As of 4:40 p.m., this site appears to be down all together.

Eighteen months ago, we wrote about a Microsoft app that would help people navigate around crime-ridden neighborhoods, an idea that was widely derided at the time as a not-so-subtle tool to help people with smart phones but no street smarts figure out how to "avoid the ghetto."

This basic idea – crime stats + travel directions – has since spawned a bunch of iterations. Here is an app called SafeRoute. And one called SaferRoute. And one called Road Buddy. In any form, this idea toes a touchy line between a utilitarian application of open data and a sly wink toward people who just want to steer clear of "those kinds of neighborhoods." But this latest entrant into the market has tripped well over that line.

Meet Good Part of Town, a web app that as of 1 p.m. Eastern this afternoon was actually called GhettoTracker. The GhettoTracker.com url now takes you here instead, after a feisty takedown from PandoDaily pinned down that the site is not, in fact, meant as satire.

The problem wasn't just the name. The imagery was a little suspicious, too. Here's PandoDaily's screenshot from earlier today:

And what the site looks like now:

The site has not yet fixed the loading text on the homepage map that reads "tracking ghettos..."

The biggest problem, beyond appearances, is in the content of the app. Good Part of Town relies not on actual crime data, but on subjective user-ratings of neighborhoods for the benefit of others. That sets the site up to quickly devolve into a platform feeding stereotypes more than statistics. The creator offers this explanation on a "message from the founder" now linked off the homepage:

The reason I opted to use user feedback, as opposed to crime stats, is because I wanted real feedback from real people. Crime statistics can also be inaccurate since many of them don't distinguish between property crimes and violent crimes.

Actually, public crime data is remarkably fine-grained in many cities now. And it's hard to imagine what "real feedback from real people" looks like if not a police report – unless, that is, you are looking for other signs of the "bad parts of town" that have little to do with actual reported incidents of violence.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A rendering of Quayside, the waterfront development now being planned for Toronto.
    Solutions

    A Big Master Plan for Google's Growing Smart City

    Google sibling company Sidewalk Labs has revealed its master plan for the controversial Quayside waterfront development—and it’s a lot bigger.

  2. Passengers line up for a bullet train at a platform in Tokyo Station.
    Transportation

    The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

    The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks.

  3. Anthony Bourdain in 2001, when he was still the chef-owner of Les Halles in New York City.
    Life

    Urbanists Could Learn a Lot From Anthony Bourdain

    The work of the acclaimed chef and writer, who has died at 61, provides a model for a truly inclusive urbanism based on the creativity of all human beings.

  4. Design

    What Cities Can Do to Help Birds and Bees Survive

    Pollinators—the wildlife that shuffle pollen between flowers—are being decimated. But they may still thrive with enough help from urban humans.

  5. a photo of commuters on Oakland's Bay Bridge.
    Transportation

    Can Waze Convince Commuters to Carpool Again?

    Google’s wayfinding company wants to help drivers and riders find each other on its navigation app—and ease traffic congestion along the way.

×