this week, we are welcoming a wonderful new cohort of graduate students to the department and our community. as a sociological criminologist, they sometimes ask me about the relative safety of various neighborhoods. usually they ask me such questions immediately after they have signed a long-term lease.
i can offer personal impressions, but generally prefer to back them up with some fresh public-use data. official crime reports, however, can be subject to biases in reporting, enforcement, or processing. one alternative data source is the ShotSpotter technology now used to track gunshots in minneapolis. when sensors detect the sound of gunfire, the system triangulates the location of the gunshot. the police department then plots the data and puts their weekly shots fired maps online, along with precinct-specific maps tracking violent crime and other crime. given the potential biases in other sources of crime data, and the common-if-not-universal aversion to neighborhood gunfire, the new gunshot maps might offer a useful tool for apartment hunters. just remember to look before you lease.