Beware! Data-fudgers from Detroit Might "Steal" Your Car in Milwaukee
This past February, a website called TheDetroitBureau.com issued a report on the Top Ten U.S. Neighborhoods for auto theft. A curious reader would have read that Milwaukee's "Triangle Neighborhood" was home to an astoundingly high "94.96 thefts per 1,000 (residents)." Yet, the report, which said its data was collected via “insurance industry statistics” from the website NeighborhoodScout.com, had some folks in Milwaukee puzzled.
Michael Horne, writing for Milwaukee Magazine's "News Buzz" blog, found the study's claims to be dubious from the get-go. For starters, if you told a Milwaukeean you wanted to meet-up somewhere in the "Triangle Neighborhood," you might be met with a resounding "huh?" As Horne wrote, "The title was not immediately familiar to Alex Runner, staff assistant for Common Council President Willie Hines, in whose 15th Aldermanic District it is located. When asked about it, Runner responded, 'Where do you mean exactly? We have a couple triangle neighborhoods in the 15th District: Walnut/Lisbon/Sarnow or Wright/24th/Fond du Lac or Lisbon/North/46th? Can you be more specific?'"
Even more telling, with just a little digging, it looks like NeighborhoodScout.com and their “insurance industry statistics” may not have been the best source for The Detroit Bureau's analysis. Speaking to Frank Scafidi of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, whose organization was cited by the study, Horne was told “I know of no other organization that publishes this kind of data to the degree it is reported from this story, and it certainly isn’t my company, yet we are cited in it.”
Yikes, Detroit Bureau folks. Yes, we know you've had a rough go of it lately, what with your city doing the population drop and all. But slamming another proud city with lazy stats in false neighborhoods? C'mon, you're better than that.
Commenter Lois Quinn, writing in response to Horne's piece, succinctly wrapped up the mystery by penning the below:
"The company producing these crime “statistics” is similar to one we researched at the UW-Milwaukee Employment & Training Institute a decade ago for a study on “Confronting Anti-Urban Marketing Stereotypes: A Milwaukee Economic Development Challenge” (posted at http://www.eti.uwm.edu/purchasing/markets.htm). These companies collect CITYWIDE crime data and then release maps claiming to pinpoint the NEIGHBORHOODS where the crimes occured using Census Bureau demographic data on residents (poverty levels, race, age, etc.).
It’s research “on the cheap.” Unwilling to go to the trouble of reviewing where auto thefts actually occur in Milwaukee or any other city, this company just crunches the city’s auto theft totals into a computer (they call it using “mathematical algorithms”) and assumes that some little triangle in the central city has a high number of thefts because people living there are poor. Michael Horne was right to contact the company — and get through to the Wizard-of-Oz character hiding behind the curtain. What’s sad is that these companies offer real estate services, usually packed with stereotypes about people and neighborhoods they have never seen and know next to nothing about."
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