Is There Less Crime Around the Manhattan Temple?

The New York Police Department has very fine-grained data on crime frequency, with latitude and longitude coordinates for reported crimes. Of course, I’m sure a cop isn’t walking around with a GPS device to get it exact, and if you look at the data it tends to be laid out on a grid, suggesting that the latitude and longitude coordinates are basically placeholders for street intersections and buildings.

I was curious whether the Manhattan temple (and religious buildings in general) had an any kind of a crime bubble around it–basically whether the presence of a visibly religious structure might make it less likely for people to commit crime around it, so I made a heat-map of the NYPD’s crime data since 2010.

The Manhattan temple is kitty corner (across Broadway) to the blue Lincoln Square blob. As you can see, it looks like it’s in a “green” area, although the area behind the temple is in a lower crime, blue area, but some of that might be because the front area is on a busy street (rule # 1 about data visualizations: don’t make map that is just a population density map in disguise), although the temple itself does appear to be between two higher-crime, yellow areas.

When we upload the point data with a marker for each reported crime (although one point can be a placeholder for dozens or even hundreds of crimes that were given the same lat/long), it does look like the area in front of the temple has a crime problem, but again that’s to be expected since it’s at the intersection of various large streets.

So, in conclusion this is one of those investigations where you might expect a clear confirmation and disconfirmation but you instead get some muddied middle. I’m not going to take the time to do a more formal, sophisticated analysis (or schlodge through all the different crime types and just use “street crime” in the maps), but you could take the fact that the temple is lodged between two higher crime hotspot as evidence of a bubble, but those hotspots seem sporadically distributed along Broadway anyway, so it could also be chance.

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