Is Chicago home to the most dangerous neighborhood in America? That's what the folks at a commercial real estate company Neighborhood Scout think.
Just as the Chicago police department announced a 4.5 percent decrease in overall crime between January to September, Neighborhood Scout has published a paper citing "W. Lake St." -- a U.S. Census tract located on the Near West Side -- as the nation's most crime-ridden address. Using statistics from the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department, the company estimates that neighborhood residents stand a one-in-four chance of falling victim to a violent incident.
CPD virulently denies the claim. According to their records, the blocks identified by Neighborhood Scout rank near the bottom of Chicago's census tracts -- 775 out of 873 -- for total crime. Last year, Jody Weis blasted a similar study in a Sun-Times Letter to the Editor (July 15, 2009), arguing that the real estate site is attempting to predict crime using census variables and city-wide data instead of recording the actual number of violent crimes perpetrated in each jurisdiction.
Who is right? The Chicago Reporter found that the 11th police district, which starts immediately west of the area Neighborhood Scout identifies, actually recorded the highest one-year murder total for any district in the city last year. The Sun-Times, meanwhile, reported this spring that a police beat on the South Side was the most dangerous in Chicago. The Chicago Justice Project's Tracy Siska, responding to the 2009 Neighborhood Scout controversy, pointed out that the level of access journalists have to raw CPD crime data is "very limited." Full transparency, he wrote, would "eliminate the need for searching out such poor sources." It would also eliminate the confusion.