Sunday, December 18, 2016

Worth Another Look. Crime ‘in Lake Worth’ and using data from zip codes: The result is “Garbage In Garbage Out”.

Every now and then some like The Obtuse Blogger (TOB) put out that recycled garbage about Lake Worth having one of the worst crime rates in Florida. Complete nonsense. This is done to damage the City’s image and that of PBSO as well. Where does this false and misleading data come from? Zip codes.

Lake Worth is a tiny City. Only 6 square miles and uses zip code 33460 and part of 33461. However, there are 9 ‘Lake Worth’ zip codes that go far west bordering on the Everglades. Some like TOB have difficulty understanding this.

Yes, there is crime in the City of Lake Worth. And if you’ve been paying attention to the news in Palm Beach County there is crime in other cities as well. Crime is news and no one is suggesting it be ignored. However, the public is not served well when the issue of crime is misrepresented, misreported, and distorted. 

The Palm Beach Post fell for this garbage data too. Here is an excerpt from the original article by their beat reporter Kevin Thompson in August of last year:

     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):

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 blue shaded areas inaccurately/unfairly as “Lake Worth”.

The CEO of NeighborhoodScout wrote this on the website:

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. 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 the City of Lake Worth as the 34th most dangerous city in the U.S. Then Victoria Winkler from OnlyInYourState used that flawed data to rank Lake Worth as the 4th most dangerous city in Florida (ahead of Miami [population 400,000] at #5):

“. . . which is even more upsetting” is self-described journalists publishing false news using flawed data.

We’re left to wonder since the data is flawed, garbage really, then why did the Post proceed with this story last year? Here is an excerpt:

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, NeighborhoodScout.com.

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:

The actual City of Lake Worth. Zip codes 33460 and a small portion of 33461 that lies west of I-95.

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