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Just passed my way from the Capitol Riverfront BID, a statement taking strong exception to the WalletPop/NeighborhoodScout.com ranking of "L Street, SE" as the 9th Most Dangerous Neighborhood in the US.
[Note: If you want to peruse the crime statistics for the neighborhood from 2005 to today, here they are, viewable by year, crime/type, etc. The information comes directly from the city's data feed for crime.]
"In direct contradiction to recent media reports, the popular Capitol Riverfront neighborhood around L Street, SE hosts one of the safest streets in the nation's capital, according to the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District (BID).
"'The Capitol Riverfront is a safe and welcoming neighborhood,' said Michael Stevens, executive director of the Capitol Riverfront BID. 'The Capitol Riverfront BID District takes crime very seriously and will not allow fictitious reporting about crime rates in our neighborhood to go unchallenged.'
"On October 4th, the Website walletpop.com posted a ranking of the 25 most dangerous neighborhoods in America based on data credited to another site, neighborhoodscout.com. The ranking listed the L Street SE neighborhood, a significant portion of the Capitol Riverfront BID, as the ninth most dangerous neighborhood in America, a fact the BID vigorously refutes.
"'We demand that walletpop.com and Dr. Andrew Schiller of neighborhoodscout.com remove L Street SE from their ranking and correct this inaccurate and fictitious data,' said Stevens.
"According to the Metropolitan Police Department 2009 statistics for the L Street SE corridor, there have been zero homicides in the area since 2004, and the violent crime rate was 8.98 crimes per 1,000 people, in sharp contrast to the overinflated and erroneous violent crime rate of 111.34 per 1,000 reported by neighborhoodscout.com and walletpop.com. The scant rate of 8.98 of violent crimes per 1,000 along the L Street SE Corridor, is below even Walletpop.com's overall DC average of 14.59 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. Even as far back as 2007, the L Street Corridor SE saw only 45 violent crimes.
"'NeighborhoodScout.com's disclaimer that "Although we work hard to provide premium quality information, the content contained in any NeighborhoodScout Report is a work of art" is not a justification for inaccurate data, erroneous conclusions, and the posting of unsubstantiated rankings and misinformation about a safe neighborhood to the public,' said Stevens."

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the other lesser JD says: (10/7/10 12:28 AM)
Well said and timed. I'm impressed with the BID's reasonable and measured response although I'm curious to see how walletpop and/or neighborhoodscout will respond. It is, however, unfortunate that so many media outlets (both large and small) have been reduced to such poor journalism. Good thing we have a better example of objective journalism so close to home (h/t JD!).


Ben says: (10/7/10 9:24 AM)
While I appreciate the BID's efforts (and certainly agree with their position), I would be surprised if this website alters its findings. The website has too much to lose if it starts amending its findings, no matter how demonstrably false the results are.

Honestly, I'd like to see this pursued by the DC AG's office as a consumer protection issue. This is a commercial product, not just an academic study, and is likely subject to consumer protection laws (such as false or misleading advertising). The fact that they try to sell this product based on its accuracy and then claim it is "art" and cannot be relied on for any purpose seems pretty deceptive to me.

Now, whether the AG's office cares enough to pursue the issue is another matter entirely.


MJM says: (10/7/10 9:42 AM)
Ben +1 - spot-on, was wondering if there is anything there to pursue - something like this could be damaging especially when trying to attract companies/residents to the area.


Andrew in DC says: (10/7/10 12:08 PM)
"It is, however, unfortunate that so many media outlets (both large and small) have been reduced to such poor journalism."

Excellent point JD-the-Lesser. I think this is what irked me most about this. Some schmuck with a website publishes a ranking using... oooooh... computer models! ... and rather than taking a critical look at the report, the mainstream news broadcasts simply parroted the "findings". And to think about how commonplace this has become! Spinelessly repeating others and refusing to add value with their reporting, is it any wonder that the MSM is in the trouble it finds itself?


Sophie says: (10/7/10 2:00 PM)
To be fair to the media, the only stories I've been able to find about this are ones that point out how absurd the study is. I haven't seen any examples of "parroting" data anywhere local. But I agree, as someone who owns property in the area (the value of which could subsequently be affected by this erroneous study) I think neighborhoodscout.com has a responsibility to publicly admit it was wrong.


Andrew in DC says: (10/7/10 2:52 PM)
@Sophia

The first version I caught was the 5pm news on NBC which only did about a 45 second blurb on this, in which they repeated the study practically verbatim -- this is despite nearly the whole day to digest/analyze/interview residents, etc. I did see *later* newscasts (mostly via the web) where some critical eye was cast upon the study, but I only caught that stuff because I was tracking the story through this site.

You're right though - eventually they did start to sort the wheat from the chaff.


Mark says: (10/7/10 5:21 PM)
Sophia - the amazing thing about the 5pm NBC broadcast was the fact that a reporter came to CQ -interviewed Meredith - who explained how crazy the AOL crime report was - and even though NBC had the facts, they still went ahead with a "if it bleeds, it leads" sensationalized version of the story.

In the lead up to the story NBC used repeated promos to the effect of "one of American's most dangerous neighborhoods is right here in DC - and you won't believe which one!" They used scare tactics pure and simple - and they edited Meredith's rational discussion with the reporter completely out of the story in favor of a terrifying voice over with video of a local alley -because that fit with their "scary neighborhood" storyline. Really an alley? I guess nothing else caught their fancy in our little hood...

NBC's reporting was an example of truly awful "journalism." We also saw the ABC report at 5 - it was balanced and fair - and featured everyone's favorite blogger.


JD says: (10/7/10 5:32 PM)
I'm guessing *NBC* saw ABC's report, too, because NBC's tone changed considerably by the 11 pm version.


Mauricio says: (10/8/10 10:22 AM)
It would be kind of fun to issue a very public invitation to Dr Andrew Schiller and team to come spend a day in the 9th most dangerous neighborhood in America, so he can witness first hand the hordes of suspicious looking children, dogs, and neighborhood residents skulking to and from nefarious locations like Nats Park, Cornercopia, the Yards Park, etc. Obviously a police detail would need to be arranged to assure his safety, but this would give him an opportunity to validate his sophisticated computer algorithms with first hand knowledge of the neighborhood he's decided to defame.


Meredith says: (10/10/10 9:58 PM)
@ Ben and @MJM

Could be a realistic concern if the sidebar on the neighborhoodscout website report on the neighborhood is true. It features favorable blurbs from CBS Moneywatch & Money Magazine and suggests that universities like Harvard, UPenn, and MIT use their data in real estate research. You'd hope reputable institutions wouldn't rely on this type of "artsy" data but...

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