Crime Statistics in DC

After the news today that MSNBC.com acquired EveryBlock, a service that tracks local news in 12 different cities and organizes news, reviews, and other localized data into searchable locales (zip codes, neighborhoods, etc), I decided to poke around a bit.

One of the areas that EveryBlock tracks is crime statistics and Washington, DC is one of the 12 cities. I discovered that according to publicly available crime data, there are over double the number of crimes reported in Northwest than their are in Southeast or Northeast.

Photo via Badercondo.org

Photo via Badercondo.org

In DC, the city is divided into four quadrants based around direction from the U.S. Capitol building. That means everything south of the National Mall and west of South Capitol St is considered southwest. South of East Capitol St and east of South Capitol St is Southeast and is generally considered the most violent area of the city. North of East Capitol St and east of North Capitol St is Northeast and is largely residential. North of the National Mall and west of North Capitol St is Northwest, the busiest and most upscale quadrant of the city.

I dug around for a bit, looking at data by zip code, by ward, by quadrant, by types of crime, etc. Needless to say, it was quite startling to see this chart via Everyblock.com:
Picture 4
Naturally, we can draw some conclusions based on this striking data:

  • The socialites that go to the upscale bars that pepper Northwest, are clearly more likely to commit crimes than the Hipsters who pepper the bars along H St in Northeast.
  • Traffic circles have a higher rate of inciting violence than straight roads (the bulk of DC’s many traffic circles are in NW).
  • A higher cost of alcoholic drinks is directly responsible for an uptick in theft.
  • A higher concentration of tourists in and around the National Mall and monuments escalates anger level in citizens who have a tendency to then get into altercations as frustration level boils over.
  • The Metro and access to the Metro has a negative effect on people.
  • Sunday brunches don’t have quite the positive effect everyone assumes they do.

Clearly, we can draw these conclusions. Clearly.

Or maybe we just like to jump to conclusions that support our own worldview. For instance, I really dislike Northwest because it’s pretty douchey, expensive and parking is hard to find. Therefore, my worldview is projected into these crime statistics and I can make claims such as the ones above. Finding evidence to support our own worldviews, instead of finding a worldview that matches the evidence is the American way, eh?

Yeah. It is.

Reminds me of a healthcare reform debate.

Health Care Reform: Trillion Dollar Spitballs

Here in the doldrums of August, the debate around Health Care Reform spins wildly as both sides position themselves against a Trillion dollar problem that is the key point of the Obama agenda. Basically, the debate comes down to two perspectives, as it always does.

On one side, the argument is made that the health care system is broke, primary care physicians make too much money from ad hoc testing, and insurance companies collect on the loot while millions of Americans go without the insurance needed to give them peace of mind in case of an accident, injury or just preventive healthcare.

On the other side of the debate, the argument is that the proposals on the table cost too much, put too much government in the middle of personal healthcare decisions and will hurt the businesses (and the GDP produced) by an artificial price ceiling on the healthcare business ecosystem. The argument from here, as well, is that we can’t rightly identify the problem that exists.

As a fiscal conservative, I tend toward the latter but as a social progressive, I can certainly see the points made by the other side.

In software development, there is a development paradigm called Agile development. In Agile, the idea is that the quickest way to get a product to market, gain valuable insight and feedback in real user test cases, and enhance the product delivery is with a fast, iterative approach. Get the product out there and people using it. Listen to them and identify the problems. As quickly as the product is released, start turning out updates on a very fast pace. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. If you wait for the product to be “done” it will never be “done”.

The Agile approach to software development makes a lot of sense. You produce something, can very quickly get real life data, and adjust. The cost of investment and overhead are small and the footprint for total failure is reduced.

In the current Health Care Reform debate, it astounds me that both sides take an all or nothing approach. Either we throw trillion dollar spitballs and problems that no one can fully identify or wrap their heads around (individual input here is taken with a grain of salt since it is only one point of view from a limited scope of experience), or we do nothing at all, knowing that there is a problem even if we can’t identify it.

I think any startup will tell you that on the route to success, they had no idea where things would go. They may have only had a good idea that wasn’t vetted in their own minds and as they proceeded in building the product or the business, they encountered (and learned) along the way. This is the process that needs to occur. We can’t know everything right now, but we do know some things, and we do know there’s a problem.

Democrats need to stop trying to do it all right now while they have control of both houses of Congress and the White House. They are rushing things and that makes the whole deal failure prone. Republicans need to stop stonewalling and get something done. Yes, it’s going to cost money. Maybe a lot in the long run. But at the end of the day, there is an obligation of a society to take care of those who may not be able to take care of themseleves. With this in mind, iterate toward the perfect solution where society can do that, but let’s try to limit the costs and footprints and preserve the free market as well.

It won’t be perfect, but trillion dollar spitballs don’t solve anything.