Online tools to track the safety of your neighborhood
While online tools are new, neighborhood crime watches are not. Rising burglary rates in the 1960s led to formal neighborhood crime prevention and eventually the formation of the National Neighborhood Watch in 1972. You’re probably familiar with the logo – an ominous figure peering between the edge of the hat and the lapel turned up. Since then, community crime prevention has developed alongside technology. Today, neighborhood safety resources harness publicly available crime data and the power of crowdsourcing.
Whether you are looking to move, are in the process of moving, or are well established in your cul-de-sac, tapping into resources in your neighborhood can help you understand and actively improve local safety. The best online tools for monitoring nearby crime combine civic tips, news reports and government data with up-to-date reports from local authorities.
The best neighborhood safety tools when you’re:
… explore new neighborhoods
You know relocation is on the horizon, but none of the details are set. At this point, you’re probably curious about the crime statistics of the different neighborhoods you’re looking at, as well as all the other things that contribute to a positive community experience: the schools, the weather, the neighbors themselves. All of the above will affect your quality of life as well as the resale value of your home.
Real estate websites like Trulia include some of these highlights, but the following resources provide better analysis:
- ZoneVibes: AreaVibes’ stated goal is “to help you find the best places to live in America.” AreaVibes ranks cities and neighborhoods based on key metrics such as amenities, cost of living, crime rates, education, employment, housing, and weather. Simply search for a state, city, neighborhood, or address to find its score on each metric (from A+ to F) that scales up to a total livability score, from one to 100. With over 35,000 cities and rated neighborhoods, AreaVibes allows you to compare the destinations on your list with local and national averages. The personalized search function allows you to identify the crimes that concern you most.
- Neighborhood Scout: This neighborhood search engine is used by homeowners and real estate professionals looking to spot opportunities and assess risk. NeighborhoodScout’s patented algorithms produce sophisticated safety and lifestyle profiles for neighborhoods and cities, making it a particularly valuable resource for those in the early stages of finding a home. Adjust your search based on your lifestyle and security priorities. What if you find a great neighborhood, but the location doesn’t suit you? NeighborhoodScout can direct you to neighborhoods with a similar profile. Note that although most of the site is free, some reports require payment.
- Reports: For an overview of any city, check out Moving.com’s annually updated report, which combines crime statistics with demographics, school quality information, cost estimates life and climate data from all major sources: the US Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor, IRS, FBI, NOAA and local police departments.
… moving to a new neighborhood
You have your new address memorized and the closing date is circled three times on your calendar. Before you get to that, you’ve probably already done your due diligence to check the security of your new home. In fact, you’ve probably had it professionally checked twice – first by the inspector, then by the appraiser.
If only your new neighborhood could go through the same process. Just like you need to know if the roof is leaking or the sewer line is clogged, you need to know about crime in your neighborhood.
Learning about your area’s safety levels after you’ve already decided to move doesn’t have to be passive education. Protect your home in response to particularly high risks in your neighborhood with security devices, then use these devices to document suspicious behavior and share images with neighbors and authorities.
- SpotCrime: Monitor local crime with the SpotCrime map. Through its anonymous reporting system, this service compiles reports from law enforcement and news sources with helpful tips. All incidents are listed on the crime map with informative icons, giving you safety information at a glance. To stay up to date, sign up for SpotCrime alerts sent to you through your favorite platform: Facebook, Twitter or email. If you can’t find your city, check back soon – new locations are always being added.
- Crime mapping: If you’re concerned that user-reported tips are skewing crime data, check out CrimeMapping. While other sites aggregate crime reports from a variety of sources (including “scraped” data from other residential crime sites), CrimeMapping relies exclusively on police-reported crimes from law enforcement partners . Although the CrimeMapping approach to data ensures greater accuracy, it also limits data availability. Only reports from subscribing agencies make it to the site. However, if you are interested in an official overview of local crime, CrimeMapping allows you to search by address, landmark or zip code or by police department. You can also set custom crime alerts to keep you updated on designated regions and crime types.
… installed in your home
You may be well established at home, but no neighborhood is stagnant. As big trends change – the economy, employment rates – so does the makeup of your neighborhood. Perhaps the most powerful and proactive move you can make in your community is to maintain good relations with your neighbors. According to data from the 2016 National Child Health Survey, people who report that people in their neighborhood help each other are more likely to live in safe neighborhoods. It doesn’t hurt that if your neighbors know about you, your family, and your vehicles, they’re more likely to notice if anything unusual is happening on your property.
This sense of community is alive in online neighborhood groups, which help you both monitor and support local safety. Like interactive maps and personalized alerts, crime watch technology has gone far beyond the “keep your eyes open” directive of the original neighborhood watch. However, the equivalents of today are the direct heirs of these first initiatives. In fact, Nextdoor, a popular social media platform for community information and safety, is a Neighborhood Watch partner.
- The next door: This private social network allows members to share reports of suspicious activity and security issues, as well as posts about block parties, garage sales, and that weird new weed invading the sidewalk. Because members can only belong to one neighborhood at a time, you are guaranteed to only communicate with those who live nearby. Nextdoor is an invaluable resource for recent buyers, although its terms of membership make it impossible to use it as a resource for identifying potential neighborhoods.
- The Neighbors app by Ring: This app-based neighborhood watch program comes from Ring, the home automation company acquired by Amazon last year. Ring stands for Video Doorbell – the best smart doorbell on the market. You don’t need to own Ring products to use the app, which combines reports from neighbors and officials to alert you to suspicious activity and crime. Ring partners with a growing number of police departments to improve communication between community members and authorities.
- National Sex Offender Registry: The National Public Sex Offenders Website (NSOPW) allows you to perform a comprehensive search of sex offenders in all state, territorial and tribal registries. You can search this government site by offender’s name or by location and radius, allowing you to check the surroundings of not only your home, but also other places your family frequents, such as schools, parks and shopping malls. The NSOPW provides safety tips in addition to predator information, making it a great resource for parents. If you want to know when registered sex offenders enter or leave your neighborhood, check out Family guard dogwhich sends relevant alerts to locations you designate.
- Criminal reports: CrimeReports compiles data from over 1,000 participating law enforcement agencies to create a detailed, searchable map. Search recent criminal activity by law enforcement sector or agency, or by type of crime. Magnify the map to your area of concern, then set alerts from a comprehensive list of incidents, from the biggest (vehicle theft) to the smallest (disordered behavior). You can also register your security camera with CrimeReports to help with law enforcement efforts. If a crime occurs in your neighborhood, the police may contact you to verify the footage.