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Neighborhood Crime Rates. Do they matter?

In the Location Intelligence business and Site Selection in particular, the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” is an understatement. There are several variables that business owners often overlook when scouting locations for expansion or relocation. In some cases, these variables can dramatically affect the business, its employees and customers. Here’s an example. I’ll tell you about the general characteristics of this site, and you tell me if you think it may be a good site for a retail location.

  • Centrally located in a densely populated area

  • Frontage on two major roads

  • Traffic counts in excess of 26,000 AADT

  • High-concentration of existing national credit retailers

  • Strong multifamily density

  • Ready access to public transportation

  • Less than one mile from a major university and a hospital

Sounds good, right? Here’s the same site, with an Esri Color Map showing the Personal Crime Index overlaid on top. Still look good?

*For reference, the national baseline Personal Crime Index is 100. This site measures more than 9 times higher than the national average. Sometimes, it’s what you can’t see at a site that can become a problem, and that’s where Location Intelligence comes in. So does a high crime rate necessarily mean you should rule this site out? Absolutely not. Does it mean you should take the high crime rate into consideration when planning and budgeting? Absolutely. Will your customers feel safe visiting your location? Will their cars get broken into while they are inside your business? Do your employees feel safe walking to their cars after dark? Will you have to hire an on-site security guard? These are all valid and important considerations. The good news is Location Intelligence is not just a great tool for identifying potential high-crime areas, it’s also part of the solution. For example, several cities across the country are utilizing location-based tools to address crimes in near real-time. Las Vegas and Kansas City use the ShotSpotter system to rapidly respond to outdoor gunshots. The system uses a sophisticated network of acoustic sensors to identify, triangulate, and map gunshots on a mobile GIS platform, drastically reducing police response time and helping to solve crimes. See it in action below:

At the end of the day, crime isn’t something that should necessarily dissuade you from locating your business in a certain area, but it’s definitely a worthwhile consideration when conducting site selection and business planning. Knowing crime rate information can ultimately save you millions of dollars.

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