How Safe Is Your City? That May Depend on Your ZIP Code

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A more telling statistical look at a city’s homicide rate ought to break down the numbers by ZIP code or neighborhood, say The Trace. Scholars suggest that the conversation about national and metro crime rates ignores a crucial metric: the lived experience of urban violence. The risk of being shot is not equal in all parts of a city, but rather clusters most heavily in a handful of blocks. For residents, the differences in relative danger can be stark. The 53206 ZIP code in Milwaukee has a homicide rate nearly double the city’s average — and 20 times higher than in the city’s safest district.

“It’s meaningless to say what the citywide homicide rate is, or violent crime rate is, because it turns out not very many people experience that average rate,” Daniel Kay Hertz, a public policy analyst in Chicago, says of his city. Hertz has written about “murder inequality,” using data and maps to show that homicide, like wealth, education, and incarceration, is not evenly distributed among neighborhoods and groups of people. For journalists, policymakers, and law enforcement officials hoping to better understand crime and illuminate possible solutions for reducing it, murder inequality offers a clear picture of which areas are most in need of attention.

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