How crime-ridden is your neighborhood? Local company has answers

SEATTLE -- We all know Magnolia has less violent crime than Belltown. But, did you know you are actually more likely to be the victim of a property crime in Ballard than you are in downtown Seattle?

A Seattle-based company that already lets users know how good their neighborhoods are for walking, biking, busing, eating and drinking is now letting users know how good those neighborhoods are for not getting stabbed, mugged or burglarized.

Walk Score, which provides content to more than 20,000 real-estate websites around the country in order to help people decide where to live, launched its crime reports and maps feature Tuesday to help users compare crime at the neighborhood level.

"One of the questions people ask most frequently is, 'Is this place safe?'" Walk Score co-founder Matt Lerner said. "We developed a methodology that helps people accurately compare crime rates between neighborhoods."

Lerner said the thing Walk Score does differently than other companies is to normalize crime data based on a neighborhood's population and workforce.

For example, Walk Score's crime heat map shows a lot of crime reported in downtown Seattle. But, when normalized for the larger amount of people in downtown, it actually has an average level of violent crime and a less-than-average level of property crime when compared to other Seattle neighborhoods.

According to Walk Score, its method allows populous neighborhoods to not appear more dangerous than they actually are.

Lerner said Walk Score decide to add crime reports to its features now because more and more police departments are making their data available.

Walk Score's crime maps are now available for neighborhoods in Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago. And, the company is currently working to expand its crime maps to other cities.