Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - By Ben Berkowitz - No comments

This is Important: Your Neighbors are Awesome

Having your rims jacked from your Honda Fit sucks. Having an awesome network of well connected neighbors does not suck.   Over the last couple of weeks there have been a spat of "rim jackings"in two adjacent neighborhoods in New Haven. Photos of the stripped vehicles as well as the location and times of the crimes have been mapped as individual issues on SeeClickFix. 

At first glance, reporting a crime after the fact might not seem like a typical SeeClickFix issue. However, in the comment threads, neighbors display the types of feedback loops that are intrinsic to SCF issues and by nature, a better community. 

Here's some unexpected benefits reflected on each of the issues: 

1) Neighbors were alerted to the thefts and informed to keep an eye out.

2) Neighbors recommend solutions for preventing theft such as wheel locks.

3) Though it has yet to happen in New Haven, the availability of data might assist volunteer analysts in helping police analysts identify a pattern that might not be apparent otherwise. The SCF data set has grown large enough that it has attracted hundreds of data scientists to challenges like this one happening on Kaggle.  We can see a day in the near future where an SCF-er helps police track down a criminal with data.

4) The press was made aware of the wheel theft problem, thereby alerting more neighbors. See SCF media partner story here.

And lastly the benefit that I see as most important and most emblematic of the SCF community and strong communities in general: 

5) An offer to help. One neighbor, "RMFarmer," commented on one of the issues: "If someone can put me in contact with the owner, I'd like to help get the new wheels to the vehicle."  

In the end, neighbors did pool spare tires to get the cars off the street. At a time when a neighbor is feeling discouraged about his/her community, there's no better opportunity to remind him/her that a community is stronger than its weakest links. 

Yay for neighbors looking out for each other everywhere. Yay for the Internet and local networks showing off the best parts of humanity.   

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Photos below and issue source here


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