I was inspired by the discussion on this post to do a little digging on the Nashville crime situation. I have often hear people talk about Inglewood and east Nashville (I know better now than to conflate the two) as if they were one step away from Compton, crime-wise. People also seemed to have this impression about Melrose (37204), where I used to live, when in reality it was a pretty nice, if run-down neighborhood in the unfortunate but inevitable throes of gentrification. There was crime, occasionally, of course, but not to the extent that I was afraid to go for a walk at any given time.
So I was curious where this impression came from -- what are the "worst" neighborhoods in Nashville? Turns out, defining "worst" is tough.
Nashville's police department has some numbers which are interesting. According to these numbers, 37211 (south nashville), 37013 (antioch), 37206 (east nashville), etc. had the highest total criminal incidents. But these numbers don't really tell the whole story. These areas could have more crime because they simply have more people. A statistic that helps clarify this is the percentage increase in crime, which is helpful to pinpoint demographic shifts as well as areas having problems, but it still doesn't answer the real question I have, which is:
While living in a given area of Nashville, how likely are you to directly experience a criminal act? The ideal answer to this is really crimes-per-capita. Unfortunately there are a few problems in attempting to calculate this:
First, the most recent population by zipcode data available is via the 2000 Census's ZCTA (Zip Code Tabulation Areas). The population of Nashville hasn't changed too drastically between 2000 and 2005, however the demographics could (and probably) have shifted between areas in those five years.
Second, on a small scale like this (metro area), sample set is a problem. Naturally if you have a zip code with 2 people living in it, and there's one crime, suddenly you have an 0.50 per-capita crime rate.
Nonetheless, I forged ahead, and here's what I found:
|Zipcode||Population||Crimes||Crimes per capita|
Here you can obviously see the sampleset problems I was talking about. My zip code, 37201, doesn't look so hot. 37213 has a nearly 1.0 crime-per-capita rate -- 1 crime for every person! Of course, that's because it's the area around the stadium and, like downtown, more people come here than actually live here. They just come here, watch football and/or get drunk, and then commit drunken crimes. Good times!
So there you have it. There are no real shockers here. The wealthier suburbs are relatively crime-free, and the downtown area is prone to crime even in areas where there really aren't any residents. But it is interesting to note that by these numbers, East Nashville is only marginally less safe than, say, Green Hills.
Sidenote: in the course of searching for maps of zip codes, I found this really cool site which interactively maps zipcodes by digit. Give it a try.