Why Real Estate Agents Don’t Need Crime Statistics

Hard numbers mean little when it comes to the complexity of criminal behavior and its effect on neighborhoods and home values. Christy Murdock explains why you (and your customers) can live without it.

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Around the holidays of late 2021, you might have seen a trend: real estate portals getting rid of crime stats as a metric tied to home value and neighborhood fitness. Starts with Redfin and Realtor.comwhose CEOs called on other portals to follow suit, it was eventually picked up by Zillow for its brand Trulia. (Zillow does not include crime statistics on its portal.)

For those who were dropping stats and those who never included them in the first place, leaving out crime data was seen as a fair housing issue. A similar argument could be made for school data which is routinely included by portals as an indicator of neighborhood health, although it too is subject to Racial and economic prejudice.

The problem with crime statistics may lie in the perception

I grew up in a neighborhood tucked against an area of ​​Atlanta that was rife with criminal behavior including drugs, prostitution, gangs, and homicide. In my neighborhood, we knew where the drug dealer lived, where the woman who shot and killed her abusive husband lived, and which neighbor was subject to nightly raids.

We took reasonable precautions: lock our doors, lock the car, put a padlock on the storage shed. During the decades I’ve lived in this neighborhood, we had a burglary when we were out of town (we didn’t have much value, so little value was taken), and once my purse hand was stolen.

I have never been afraid to walk to school, to church or to friends. I wasn’t afraid to come home late at night or leave early in the morning. I didn’t take unnecessary risks, but I didn’t live in fear either.

My ex-in-laws lived in very exclusive gated communities throughout the years I knew them. They have alarms to enter the neighborhood, separate alarms on the building, and another alarm on their individual home. They live in one of the safest neighborhoods in the country, statistically.

They constantly talk about crime, just like their friends at the country club. They live in fear of loss or violence that is almost certain never to touch them in any way.

The relative danger of an area often lies in the perception of the people who live there. Many errors are at work in the analysis of crime data and its relative importance.

Here are some of the ways we understand and misinterpret crime numbers as an indicator of neighborhood health and our own well-being.

Reported and unreported crime

If someone steals your purse, you are likely to report it. If an acquaintance or relative mistreats you, stalks you or robs you, you are not. In many neighborhoods, especially those where people know each other well or care about appearances, crime can be handled quietly to avoid public outrage. This does not mean that these are low crime areas, only low reporting areas.

Violent crime versus property crime

Property crime is based on socio-economic factors, and violent crime is extremely personal. Although violent crime has increased in recent years, property crime has continued to decade-long decline. Crime statistics that do not distinguish between the two can paint an artificial picture of criminal activity in an area.

Criminal Incidents vs. Criminal Convictions

In Christian Taubman’s blog post for Redfin calling for the inclusion of crime data, he cited both racial bias and statistical inaccuracies in available sources of crime data. In addition, however, there is the problem of what counts as a crime. Only incidents where there is an arrest? Only those who have convictions? Only those where the penalties include incarceration?

The Chaotic Nature of Causality

Above all, there is the chaotic nature of understanding crime rates themselves and the causes of criminal behavior. There’s the ever-shrinking social safety net and the differences in policing between different jurisdictions and populations. There is the lack of mental health services and the shame associated with sexual assault and domestic violence, a shame that falls disproportionately on the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Because there is so much to crime and its analysis, it is nearly impossible to allow any set of numbers from one source to represent the worth of a community, town or city. They can’t hope to measure if you go To feel safe or not, let alone if you go be sure or not.

So what are you supposed to say to these customers?

There are a variety of ways to talk to your customers and ensure they get the information they want, plus an extra perspective. Having spent nearly two decades as a teacher, there is so much more to schools than the statistics you can talk about. Similarly, a neighborhood is not just about crime statistics. Here are some possibilities:

  • There are a wide variety of resources online, but the best idea may be to go straight to the source. Talk to people in the neighborhood, get involved there and see if it’s right for you.
  • There are a lot of things that go into deciding which neighborhood is right for your family. Think about what you enjoy and look for academic, creative or recreational programs that pique your interest and make this neighborhood the one for you.
  • When it comes to something as complicated as crime statistics, I encourage you to check out various resources and talk to different people to get a range of perspectives.

Your customers may want you to direct them to specific resources, and you can choose to do so. However, I hope at the same time you explain to them that numbers lie and statistics don’t even tell half the story, especially when the story is as complicated as this.

The reality is that your customers are more likely to keep themselves safe by being careful about the company they have in their home and setting personal boundaries on inappropriate behavior from their own family and friends. Without it, all the numbers in the world cannot protect them.