How Safe Is My Neighborhood? 7 Tools to Find Out
If you’re asking, “How safe is my neighborhood?” you can use these helpful tools to determine just how safe your surroundings are and learn what steps you can take to feel safer in your home.
Q: Recently a friend looking for a house in our neighborhood told me that our area isn’t safe compared to surrounding neighborhoods. I’ve always felt comfortable in our home, but now I’m wondering if I’m wrong, and I have no idea how to check. How safe is my neighborhood?
A: This is a great question. It used to be easy to tell how safe a neighborhood was based on how many people sat on their front porches at night, but now appearances can be deceiving. From package theft to burglaries, crime is on the rise in many areas—and suburbs aren’t necessarily safer than cities. Your gut feeling is important to consider, because it has developed over time as a result of your observations, but there are a number of tools available online to research the safety of your neighborhood. While several are intended for new home buyers checking out potential towns to live in, these tools provide helpful information that you can combine with your own observations to determine steps you might need to take to feel comfortable in your home.
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CityProtect is a map that shows crimes that have recently occurred.
Unless you’re constantly checking your town’s police blotter, there may be a fair amount of crime occurring in your neighborhood that you don’t even know about. CityProtect is a website that allows you to put in your address or ZIP code and view recent crimes in your area on an interactive neighborhood map—property theft, personal crimes, drug crimes, and others, as denoted by icons. Click on a crime and CityProtect will give you a short outline, then direct you to the appropriate law enforcement agency if you’d like to ask questions. In addition, CityProtect provides a notification function, so you can receive alerts about new crimes in the area. If you have a home security camera, you can register that fact on the website so law enforcement can contact you as a resource if they need to scan the footage so you can be part of the solution. Drawn from crime reports from more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies, this is one of the most complete crime mapping programs available.
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Check any area’s crime statistics on NeighborhoodScout.
NeighborhoodScout is designed to help new home buyers compare crime data, but it’s also a useful tool for current residents. Simply enter your ZIP code or address, and NeighborhoodScout will open a crime map of your area, color-coded to show areas of higher and lower crime. The colors clearly distinguish neighborhood “areas” that you can then click on for details, including real estate prices and trends, neighborhood characteristics, diversity, and density. While it’s important to remember that these are generalizations (which you may already know, if you’re looking at the neighborhood in which you live!), the information will give you an idea of the culture of the neighborhood. Paired with the crime data, the site provides a good overview of what types of crime you might expect to see and how likely you are to encounter crime in the area. Some of the details require a paid subscription, but some of it is free.
AreaVibes ranks neighborhoods based on seven factors to determine “livability.”
Rather than searching specifically for crime data, AreaVibes provides information on amenities, education, housing, cost of living, culture, and other factors to build a wider picture of the livability of the area—the site tries to give you a full picture of what it would be like for you to live there, based on your preferences and interests. The site does provide a specific breakdown of the types and degrees of crime in your neighborhood. Along with letting you select an area, the site also provides comparisons with nearby areas that have higher or lower livability scores and allows you to sort by what’s most important to you. AreaVibes also provides links to homes for sale or rent in the area. This helps give you a balanced view of the positive aspects of the community that balance against bare crime statistics, so you can get a better sense of the actual degree of safety.
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Family Watchdog shows the addresses of registered sex offenders.
Convicted sex offenders are required to register their addresses with local law enforcement as a condition of their release. This allows concerned citizens, especially those with young children who may be walking to school, to search for the locations online so that they can be aware that there is an offender nearby. Family Watchdog is an easily accessible way to search for these residences: Enter your address or ZIP code, and the site provides a map of the area with icons showing the address you entered, nearby schools, and colored bubbles indicating where registered offenders live. The colors denote the type of offense committed and whether the location is a residence or workplace. The site is free unless you’re looking for specific information on the charges against the offender, in which case you’ll be referred to a paid records search.
Nextdoor allows users to connect with their neighbors.
The crime statistics you’ve seen at this point may have alarmed you—what feels like a safe neighborhood can sometimes be revealed to be less so than you expected. Connecting with neighbors is a first step to feeling more secure. When someone in your neighborhood joins Nextdoor, you may get a postcard inviting you to join as well. It looks like spam mail—but it’s not, and you don’t have to wait for an invitation to join. Nextdoor is a private social network using an app and email to connect neighbors on a small, neighborhood-by-neighborhood scale. Useful for connecting neighbors with questions about local wildlife, crime and traffic alerts, reminders about construction, and block-party planning, it’s a service that really connects you with the people living in your immediate vicinity. While it is also used to help people find dog walkers and babysitters or sell the extra chair in their garage, Nextdoor offers a filter that allows you to see only posts related to crimes or safety alerts so you can choose what you see.
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The Neighbors app acts like an online neighborhood watch program.
If you’re looking to go beyond passive posts for your crime alerts, check out the Neighbors app. You knew your Ring doorbell could increase the security of your own house, but did you know you could connect to other neighbors (with or without a Ring doorbell) to create a virtual neighborhood watch? While the best neighborhood watch programs involve neighbors getting together to plan safety strategies and events in collaboration with local law enforcement, that’s not always practical. The Neighbors app provides a virtual platform that includes reports of crimes or suspicious activities posted by members, accompanied by recordings from Ring doorbell cameras, if they’re available, and allows you to display recent crimes on a map. While there have been some concerns about privacy issues with this app, the available settings and disclosures make it straightforward to decide if this is the right service for you.
ADT customers can use the ADT Go app to keep their homes and families safe.
ADT has gone further than many other home security companies in providing an expanding ring of coverage around their customers. The ADT Go app can be downloaded onto the smartphones of existing customers and can help keep your family safe as they walk home from school, go for a night run, or take the dog out for a stroll. The app provides a panic button that members can simply hold down (in your home or away), and ADT will arrange for an immediate response. The app also offers family location sharing, so you can see that your kids made it home from practice or that your partner is stuck in traffic, and it provides updated neighborhood crime data and trends.
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Regardless of how safe your neighborhood is, a home security system can help protect your property and your loved ones.
Checking out the crime rate statistics in your neighborhood can be either reassuring or unsettling, but even if your neighborhood ranks among the safest in the area, the number or type of crimes may have taken you by surprise. If you’re looking to upgrade your sense of security, there are several steps you can take. Connecting with your neighbors is a great first step, and you might consider getting a dog. One of the best home security systems (such as Vivint or ADT) whether a full-scale monitored system, DIY alarms, or a couple of cameras connected to your smartphone, can help protect you and your family and give you peace of mind. There’s a wide range of options in the home security market, so there’s likely one that offers the right balance of monitoring to help you feel safe. The best provider for you will depend on your needs, budget, and desired level of security.