Research & Analysis

Downtown Newark crime falls after 2013 SID expansion - NEWARK, NJ

Originally Published by

August 2, 2017

In 2013, the Newark Downtown District (NDD), New Jersey's largest Special Improvement District (SID), expanded its boundaries from Central Avenue to I-280 on the north, and from Branford Place to Franklin Avenue to the south. Stakeholders within those areas now receive the same clean and safe services provided by the 40-plus ambassadors employed by the NDD.

Commonly called 'bumblebees' because of their yellow and black uniforms, NDD ambassadors now pass every street, armed with a broom, bucket and an iPad. 

Commonly called 'bumblebees' because of their yellow and black uniforms, NDD ambassadors now pass every street, armed with a broom, bucket and an iPad. 

Commonly called "bumblebees" because of their yellow and black uniforms, NDD ambassadors now pass every street, armed with a broom, bucket and an iPad. They remove debris, stickers, and ensure quality of life remains high by reporting incidents ranging from loitering to illegal dumping to graffiti. Yet, a clean sidewalk was not the only result of this expansion.

While the crime rate in Newark has reached historic lows in recent years, within the new expansion areas, overall crime in the area fell by 15.3 percent while the rest of the city saw a decrease of 4.8 percent. Non-violent crimes experienced an even more drastic reduction: 34.6 percent in expansion areas compared to 9.4 percent throughout Newark.

This downward trend parallels national patterns of crime within SIDs. Professor John MacDonald of the University of Pennsylvania attributed higher reductions in violent crimes within SID areas in Los Angeles to the presence of the SIDs themselves. Similarly, professor Lorelene Hoyt of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found comparable results examining property crimes in Philadelphia.

Special Improvement Districts, or SIDs, are nonprofit organizations established through municipal ordinances to act as caretakers of public space within their boundaries. While their roles vary by city, size and budget, each strives to make their district clean, safe and livable.

By establishing a visible caretaker of a community, SID workers provide more eyes and ears on the street, and because of this increased perception of guardianship, levels of crime tend to fall. On top of that, SIDs sponsor programs and campaigns designed to promote public safety, and work with local businesses to improve coordination on crime prevention strategies. Additionally, SIDs work hard to promote economic development, tourism, and an endless variety of activities to bring people and new businesses to the downtown area. This increases the overall amount of private security, bolstering the impact of local police and adding even more eyes and ears in the community.

Cycling Crashes - NEW YORK CITY, NY


Contact Congress Map

Use this map to find contact information for senators in each state.

Housing Authority of Cook County - ILLINOIS

Consulting with the Housing Authority of Cook County, I created the map below to help in the implementation of a new program, the Community Choice Program (formerly the Mobility Program). This program incentivizes Housing Choice Voucher holders to move to “Areas of Opportunity" which are based on a number of indicators (poverty rate, racial minority rate, public transportation infrastructure, among others).

Housing Authority of Cook County map

My Block My Hood My City - CHICAGO, IL

MBMHMC is an organization dedicated to expanding the experience of kids on the south and west sides of Chicago through travel. As head data analyst for the organization, I research inequality and created the infographic below to show the disparities in the city.


I don't live in Chiraq, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist - CHICAGO, IL

Originally published on My Block My Hood My City’s blog
March 7, 2016

CHICAGO- All maps tell a story. On their surface they display information spatially but underneath they uncover social relations, historic legacies, and tell the personal narratives of people interacting with space. And the story that emerges in mapping Chicago homicides is an important one.

As head of the data team for My Block My Hood My City, I created this map to highlight the stark polarization of the city and the need to better integrate communities.

After analyzing homicides locations in conjunction with demographic data, I found that of these thousands of homicides from 2010-2015, two thirds of them occurred in neighborhoods that are two thirds or more black. Compared to just over 12% in predominantly Hispanic neighbor-hoods and under 2% in predominantly white neighborhoods, it is clear that violence is not equally shared.

Unfortunately, this is not news. Most Chicagoans understand the disparities that exist in the city so studies like these can seem repetitive. But the significance of this map, and other studies like it, lies not in the data displayed on its surface but in the social interactions that create it. While what is occurring is certainly of importance, only in understanding why something is occurring can change happen.

That is why the story this map tells, the story of Chi-Raq, is an important one.

With the mention of that term, many readers may have moved on from this piece, and with understandable frustration. With massive clusters of homicides isolated in the South and West sides of the city, to many Chicagoans, Chi-Raq, the city more deadly than a warzone, is not the city they know nor is it the reality they face. For this reason, there has been constant backlash to the city’s new name, dating from the term’s inception to Spike Lee’s recent film. However, is this image of Chicago really a misrepresentation? More importantly, is our outcry over the term Chi-Raq really more important than the larger socioeconomic, racial, and violent disparities that it brings up?

The truth is, the story of Chi-Raq is not one that I know. I live in a community out-side of this isolation of violence and like many of my neighbors cannot empathize with this problem. Despite being located mere miles apart, my experience in Edgewater is completely different from that in Englewood or Austin. But through working with MBMHMC and engaging with this data below its surface, I have begun to understand the narrative of inequality that emerges.

In order to comprehend the significance of research, there is a need for comprehensive reexamination of how we react to these studies and how we train our researchers. In my graduate studies in public policy we examine race relations, poverty, and inequality—all the necessary makings of a public servant—but theorizing and researching oftentimes keeps these ‘phenomenon’ at an arm’s length; the line between objectivity and apathy blurs. While objective research is essential to unbiased results, we cannot sacrifice the narratives of the people who represent each of these data points for the sake of pragmatism. We cannot forget the human element of urban policy.

Similarly, for city officials and community members to continue a blasé approach towards reading these stories is a form of complicity, permitting the city to continue its violent polarization. Instead of becoming numb to statistics and these stories, we instead need to mobilize when Chicagoans like Bettie Smith, Quintonio LeGrier, and Tyshawn Lee are killed. We need to call our aldermen, protest, and make our dissention known.

In the end, this map tells the story of Chicago’s segregation. This story is not just one depicting a lack of cultural integration but one telling of a social isolation which disproportionately impacts black communities. But just because this may not be the story of your Chicago does not mean it is a story you should ignore.


Illinois Special Districts Map - ILLINOIS

Working with now Illinois gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss while he was a state senator, I helped create a database of and analyze special districts throughout the state. Biss would go on to argue that the number of governmental bodies is Illinois is excessive and inefficient. He used the following map in a town hall meeting with his constituents.


Mandela Washington Fellowship - EVANSTON, IL

As program coordinator for President Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative, I liased with businesses, government officials, non profits, and local entrepreneurs to develop the cultural and business engagement curriculum. I was also responsible for communications, creating graphics like the infographics below.