Quick: which neighboorhoods above feel safe to you? How about iffy?
Paul Salesses, Katja Schechtner, and César A. Hidalgo built an online survey using images from Google Street View and ask study participants to select which neighborhood feels safe just by looking at the picture. They found that little things like trash on the street could act as subconscious cue that people use to gauge the perceived safety of a place:
Have enough people compare paired images of streets in New York or Boston, for instance, for the scenes that look more "safe" or "upper-class," and eventually some patterns start to emerge.
"We found images with trash in it, and took the trash out, and we noticed a 30 percent increase in perception of safety," Salesses says. "It's surprising that something that easy had that large an effect."
This also means some fairly cost-effective government interventions – collecting trash – could have a significant impact on how safe people feel in a neighborhood."It’s like bringing a data source to something that’s always been subjective," Salesses says.
When Salesses compare the neighborhoods that people perceived as safe against crime data, it turns out that these places are actually safer compared to the rest of the city. Emily Badger of The Atlantic Cities has the post: Link | The paper over at PLOS ONE