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Ways to Determine Neighborhood Crime Rates Before You Move

August 1st, 2018 - 4:05 PM

How safe is my neighborhood?

Keeping your family safe is a top priority, which is why it’s important to check your neighborhood crime rates. Whether you’ve lived at an address for a while or are shopping for a new home, being aware of what goes on in the area can help you make informed decisions. Since many online tools and apps give helpful data, it’s pretty simple to find crime rate statistics — you just have to know what to look for. But no matter what you find, there are some easy ways to improve security and help deter crime.  

crime rates by zip code

Checking crime rate statistics by zip code

Crime rates are reported by local police departments and law enforcement agencies. While most release this information to public databases, some departments do not. So while these online crime statistic tools will be valuable for many people, you should talk with local law enforcement if you’re not finding complete data. 

Here are some easy places to check the stats for your neighborhood: 

Websites for crime rate information

If you know the zip code or address to investigate, these websites can be very helpful:

  • Family Watchdog combines data from state sex offender registries to provide listings by zip code or exact address. They also offer free alerts, so you know when someone on the registry moves in or out of the area. 
  • Crime Reports combines data from local agencies to provide maps showing recent incidents, including thefts, property crimes, assaults and more. 
  • My Local Crime is similar to Crime Reports but may have different databases and results. If you don’t find anything on one site, check the other.

Safety and security apps

Most of these apps are location-based, so they’re great for using while house hunting to investigate the area while you’re there, or for using at home for real-time updates:

  • Crime and Place offers both a free and paid version (depending on the desired features). Use this app while checking out houses — it provides a moving map and compass to see both personal and property crime scores on an interactive heat map.
  • SpotCrime gives real-time updates for things like robberies, thefts, shootings, arrests and more. 
  • MobilePatrol partners with local law enforcement to give information and alerts based on zip code. Set multiple alerts for different locations, like home, work and school. 

Other ways to do neighborhood safety checks

Numbers don’t tell the whole story, so it’s a good idea to look in other places. Get a bigger picture of an area’s safety by doing these things:

  • Visit the area. Be on the lookout for safety issues. Look for things like people working and playing outside, security systems and Neighborhood Watch signs.
  • Consider the general safety. Areas with more traffic may be more prone to issues. Is there a nearby highway or road that might draw in unwanted visitors? 
  • Talk with the locals. Visit people next door or talk to residents at the local market or an event. Ask about the safety of roads, sidewalks and the community.
  • Read local news. TV broadcasts and newspapers will cover local crime. Keep an eye out for mentions of the neighborhood. 
  • Check other online sources. Check the city website, neighborhood community apps, and online groups to learn even more. If there’s a problem, you’ll likely hear it discussed online. 

How to help lower crime in your area

Taking steps to increase your home’s security can help decrease the area’s crime rates overall. Deterrence is a great prevention tool.

Install a security system

Studies have shown that security systems deter crime — the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University found that residential break-ins decreased in neighborhoods with a higher density of alarm systems. Most systems automatically alert police or firefighters in the event of an incident, which can result in faster response times. As a bonus, insurance companies may offer discounts for homes with security systems. 

Improve lighting

By installing lights around the exterior of your home, and keeping them on at night, you can increase surveillance. The Campbell Collaboration found that crime decreased by 21 percent in areas with lighting improvements. Don’t forget more hidden areas like alleyways, as well!

Create a Neighborhood Watch program

The Neighborhood Watch program is sponsored by the National Sheriff’s Association and has roots from when night watchmen patrolled the streets. The official program was created in 1972 to help citizens organize, train and help protect their communities. Start one in your area with help from the National Neighborhood Watch

Stay alert

Complete this home safety checklist and periodically come back to the list for any updates you might need to make. Keep an eye out for changes in your surroundings, and don’t be afraid to call the police to investigate something unfamiliar. 

Understanding crime statistics 

When it comes to neighborhood crime rates, knowledge really is power. When you know of potential issues, you can help prevent them. If you need help sorting through the information, leave a comment below. We’re always here to help. 

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