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Using Crime Statistics and Sex Offender Mapping in your Housing Search

July 26, 2011 by
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What’s the most common question that Realtors can’t legally answer?  “Is this a safe neighborhood?”

 

Map of Crime and Sex Offenders in the City of Rochester NY

Map of Crime in the City of Rochester NY

The federal government put fair housing laws into place to protect home buyers and renters from a myriad of discriminatory practices.  As a result, landlords can no longer post statements like, “great Catholic neighborhood”, or “no children allowed in this unit”.  Restricting this kind of language is obviously a necessity to prevent certain protected classes from being discriminated against.  Sometimes, fair housing regulations leave Realtors in an awkward position, because answering a question the wrong way might get them in a lot of trouble.

When I’m showing apartments or homes to prospective movers, they always want to know if this is a safe neighborhood.  Unfortunately, I can’t legally answer that question because safety is a subjective term, and my opinions or biases may shape what I consider to be safe. For that reason, Realtors can only provide their client with tools to make that determination for themselves.  In today’s edition of the Democrat and Chronicle, the City of Rochester announced that they will be partnering with CrimeReports.com to begin mapping crime in the city of Rochester.  The site also maps the location of every registered sex offender in Monroe County. Now agents and individuals can search police reports on a slick Google map interface and make the determination of safety for themselves.

The CrimeReports website maps robberies, breaking and entering, assaults, thefts and sexual assaults.  For some reason, the Rochester Police Department has chosen not to provide the data to map rape or other sexual assaults.  I certainly hope that they reconsider that, considering every woman would want to know this information about their community. When using this site, bear in mind that the RPD is just about the only local police department reporting data to the website. As a result, the suburbs look spotless, but this is only because they don’t report any crime data.  It is also worth noting that you should completely avoid using their neighborhood layer, which is supposed to show you the different city neighborhoods. There isn’t a single neighborhood properly identified on the site. All in all, it’s a great tool to use if you’re looking to determine just how safe your next community is.