Thursday, August 13, 2015

The real estate site NeighborhoodScout, The Palm Beach Post, and flawed data: Garbage In Garbage Out

There is crime in the City of Lake Worth. And if you've been paying any attention to the news in Palm Beach County (PBC) there is crime in other cities as well; West Palm Beach and their recent issues come to mind. Crime is news and no one is suggesting the media ignore it. However, the public is not served when the media misrepresents, misreports, and distorts important issues as crime like The Palm Beach Post did recently.

Here is an excerpt from the original article by Kevin D. Thompson on August 7th:
     NeighborhoodScout recently listed the 10 most dangerous cities in the state, with Lake Worth coming in at — drum roll, please! — No. 4., beating out Riviera Beach, listed at No. 7
     The site said there is a one in 14 chance of being the victim of a violent or property-related crime in Lake Worth.
     The site said it researched all 17,000 reporting agencies for its data and factored in the size of the population.
NeighborhoodScout is a perfect example of data collection and the principle of Garbage In Garbage Out (GIGO). Lake Worth is only 6 square miles but look at what they include, vast areas of unincorporated PBC:
The City of Lake Worth is 6 square miles in Palm Beach County (shaded light blue, center/right side in image). NeighborhoodScout included all the other shaded areas inaccurately/unfairly as "Lake Worth".
Andrew Schiller, the CEO of NeighborhoodScout wrote this on his site:
“With this report on the most dangerous cities, what we’re seeing is a really different picture of the types of locations that have the highest violent crime from what many people expect”
Good point, Mr. Schiller. Here is more from NeighborhoodScout:
Developing a reliable measure of a city’s safety, especially if you’re comparing them, requires a full count of the total number and types of violent crimes in each city, and getting the cities on a level playing field for comparison.
From the flawed data in NeighborhoodScout they ranked Lake Worth as the 34th most dangerous city in the U.S. Then Victoria Winkler from OnlyInYourState used the flawed data to rank Lake Worth as the 4th most dangerous city in Florida (ahead of Miami [population 400,000] at #5):
Then Thompson at the Post picked up the 'story':
We're left to wonder, since the data is proven flawed, why is the Post proceeding with the story for this weekend? Possibly Sunday's paper? Here is an excerpt from the article in the works:
LAKE WORTH — The numbers aren’t pretty.
     With a crime rate of 71 per one thousand residents, Lake Worth (the city and its suburban surroundings) has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to communities of all sizes, according to the real estate website,
To be fair to their readers the Post should include a map showing the "suburban surroundings" they falsely label as 'Lake Worth' along with the actual borders of the City; a map like this one: