“East Point: Media and Reputation”
December 4, 2017
The city of Atlanta is not entirely safe, as large cities generally aren’t, but the neighborhoods of East Point hold a special position as one of the most dangerous suburb in America—at least, according to one real estate website, Movoto. To draw up the list of top ten most dangerous suburbs in America, movoto.com pulled violent crime data from the 2012 FBI census for 120 large suburbs across America, then converted the figures so that all of the data points were out of 100,000 people, probably to allow equal comparison of the suburbs across the board (Garrison).
As you can imagine, this caused a few outrages. When CBS46 Donna Rapado interviewed Police Chief Woodrow Blue of East Point, he “stressed the numbers [were] skewed and wrong” (“Metro Atlanta City Named Country’s Most Dangerous”). He points out that Movoto claims that East Point had 34 murders and over 12,000 total crimes in 2012 when in reality, the city has only had 12 murders and 4,307 total crimes (“Metro Atlanta City Named Country’s Most Dangerous”). However, his complaint shows that either CBS altered his comments (as news sources are apt to do) or Police Chief Blue didn’t read carefully. A copy of the article found on HousingWire (Interestingly enough, I couldn’t find the original article from Movoto) explicitly states that the statistics were calculated out of 100,000 people. Since East Point housed 35,000 residents at 2012, movoto’s staff likely had to scale up the data points proportionately. When I checked their math using simple proportions laws, their calculations were accurate for East Point.
However, while their calculator skills were flawless, Movoto may have committed the fallacy of exclusion. By leaving out all the other years and only using data from 2012, the results are unstable and untrustworthy. For example, 2012 may have been a particularly crime-riddled year for East Point for some unknown reason. Conversely, other cities that may be more “dangerous” may have had relatively cleaner years in 2012, bumping East Point to the top of the list. Movoto did well in using only the 2012 FBI census across the board, but since they only incorporated that one year, their article should’ve included that in its title. By failing to do so, they can—and have—mislead readers to conclude that the list of most dangerous suburbs was current and updated. The data may have changed since 2012, for better or for worse.
In particular, there is a wordpress blogger under the alias “tropicsofmeta” who wrote an extensive article fighting against the real estate site’s judgement. As he or she complains, the article “is based upon sloppy methodology, faulty assumptions, and questionable conclusions” (tropicsofmeta). He or she further explains that Movoto hasn’t elaborated on some of the phrases that they used; what does “violent crimes” really entail? What does having a “1 in 8 chance of being a victim of crime” in the neighborhood really mean—when walking out the door in the morning, or during one’s lifetime in 2012 (tropicsofmeta)? Through expounding these quotes taken from Movoto’s statistics, tropicsofmeta really demonstrates how abstract the website’s report was.
Furthermore, he or she makes mention that “crime figures only make sense when normalized and placed in time over a sequential period.” In other words, individual years “may not be representative and[…]are meaningless unless contextualized” (tropicsofmeta). This is an astute observation of statistics where data may lead to the answer, but needs context in order to properly represent the situation. Tropicsofmeta has done well to uncover the flaws of Movoto’s judgement on East Point. The fact that he or she lives there and can attest to his or her own safety and the satisfaction of the neighbors only adds to his or her credibility on the topic.
Putting data and quantitative evidence aside, some of East Point’s residents’ opinions obviously don’t match up to the reputation Movoto has built up for the neighborhood, further establishing the possible safety of the area, despite what Movoto’s article says. When a Reddit user asked fellow Redditers about moving into East Point, there were the expected comments about crime rates (henrytheangryredneck). However, user absurdivore shared that his or her family moved into Jefferson Park, an East Point neighborhood, and “really love[d] the area” (absurdivore). Contrary to the murder-filled streets that Movoto’s article seems to imply, Jefferson Park is full of “tight-knit neighborhoods and really nice people” (absurdivore). User indemnitypop shared that his or her mother, a sixty year old single lady, has lived in East Point for over ten years and “hasn’t had any problems or ever felt unsafe” (indemnitypop). This second user also attests to the friendliness of the neighbors. If a sixty year old single lady has no problems in East Point, then what’s the problem? What’s up with the report of it being a high-violent-crime area?
Indemnitypop actually addresses the controversy in the last part of the comment by mentioning, “There prob[ably] are parts of East Point you’d want to avoid, but you prob[ably] won’t have any reason to go to them anyway” (indemnitypop). This suggests that East Point is mostly safe with only “parts” that should be “avoid[ed]” (indemnitypop). While the FBI report covers East Point as a whole, it is not a small area. When areas of East Point are sectioned off into blocks of land, such as on city-data.com, we see that there are a few areas concentrated with violent crime. However, there are also areas that are lighter on the violent crimes index. As the website neighborhoodscouts points out, “even the most dangerous cities in America can have relatively safe neighborhoods” (Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America). These quotes by indemnitypop and neighborhoodscouts and the data from city-data all support the possibility of the duality of East Point. While it may have a high overall crime and murder rate, homicides may be limited to specific neighborhoods where gang fights are more common. Jefferson Park and indemnitypop’s mother’s neighborhoods are probably just two of these aforementioned “relatively safe neighborhoods” in the “dangerous” East Point city (Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America). Thanks to these pockets of safe neighborhoods—or, as the map on city-data suggests, whole blocks of safe neighborhoods—East Point is not all life-threatening to live in. Instead, it is a regular city with higher concentrations of crime sprinkled in certain neighborhoods, which is not what Movoto’s article suggests.
There is still the issue of defamation. While statistics on city-data and testimonials from residents of East Point point out that it’s not as dangerous as Movoto makes it out to be, not very many people are aware of this. Movoto’s article had over 100,000 Facebook views as of June 2014, and Tropicsofmeta laments that people are taking Movoto’s article seriously, and not without reason: another local Atlanta-area blogger has cited it in his own article, advising readers to not “go[…]to East Point” because of its rating as “‘the most dangerous suburb in America’” (Davis). Tropicsofmeta’s grief is warrented. According to the paper “Negativity and extremity biases in impression formation: A review of explanations.” written by John J. Skowronski and Donal E. Carlston in 1989, there is a “negativity effect” where people “place more weight on negative information rather than positive information” when forming overall opinions about products or subjects (Park). With all the Facebook views (and its attention-grabbing title), more and more people are receiving the article’s negative information. The average reader will probably accept its ranking as the second most dangerous suburb in America without further research (because who has the time for that?). People who are looking to move into a neighborhood in or around East Point might scour the web for more, but according to Skowronski and Carlston’s theory of the “negativity effect,” their impressions of the city will be tainted by its ranking on Movoto. If they really looked into it, homebuyers/renters will look on city-data.com and see that living there will be like any other city as long as they avoid the more dangerous regions. However, most people probably don’t even know that such a website exists or wouldn’t care to investigate further even if they did know. It can be frustrating for residents like tropicsofmeta to see people refraining from moving in to the safe neighborhood because of the opinions of one seemingly skewed article. Defamation and subsequent vacancy of an area is seldom a pretty sight. From what I’ve learned in my English Composition class in my first year of college, defamation brings lower property values, which is probably pretty terrible too (not that I would know).
Even with all the negative attention that East Point is receiving, it may not be as big of a problem as tropicsofmeta fears it to be. Before stumbling upon this essay topic, I haven’t even heard of East Point despite having lived around metro Atlanta for eleven years. Indemnitypop on Reddit also mentions that her mother’s East Point neighborhood “is starting to have lots of families moving in,” so the article is probably not having much of an effect—if any—on people who are interested in moving in to the city. Reddit’s absurdivore acknowledges that the city has its “challenges,” but reassures fellow redditers that “the city is definitely working on and improving” those “challenges.” He or she then points out that there were other cities—Grant Park and East Atlanta—in East Pointesque conditions just a few years ago, which we can assume means that they’re in better shape now. As long as the city keeps improving, it’ll gain appeal with prospective residents and not lose its buyers.
It’s interesting that Movoto’s article disappeared. While researching for this paper, it was nowhere to be found. It definitely existed at some point because most of my sources that I used for this paper refers back to the article and includes a link to it, which redirects me to movoto.com. It’s almost as if all the little outcries of blaspheme convinced the site’s moderators to take down the list, although its legacy does live on in a copy of the original ranking on housingwire.com. We may be blowing up the impact of the East Pointers’ online responses because we’ve actually read them, but that also applies to this situation and to life. Maybe the article didn’t have as big of an impact as tropicsofmeta feared it had, or maybe violent crime statistics aren’t enough to deter interested to-be residents. Or maybe it just didn’t reach enough people to cause people to avoid the area before it was shut down. Whatever it is, this research paper has shown me that the media
absurdivore. Comment on “28/F looking to move into East Point, more specifically around the Colonial Hills neighborhood.” reddit, 2013–2014, www.reddit.com/r/Atlanta/comments/2f3358/28f_looking_to_move_to_east_point_more/
Baker, H. Robert. “I Live in America’s Most Dangerous Suburb.” Tropics of Meta, WordPress, 24 June 2014, www.tropicsofmeta.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/i-live-in-americas-most-dangerous-suburb/.
Davis, Sebastian. “18 Things You Have to Explain to Out-of-Towners About Atlanta.” Thrillist, Thrillist, 23 Apr. 2014, www.thrillist.com/entertainment/atlanta/18-things-you-have-to-explain-to-out-of-towners-about-atlanta.
“Graph of Violent Crime Index Map by Block Groups.” City-Data, www.city-data.com/city/East-Point-Georgia.html.
Garrison, Trey. “The 10 Safest and 10 Most Dangerous Suburbs in America.”HousingWire.com, 14 Apr. 2014, www.housingwire.com/articles/29654-the-10-safest-and-10-most-dangerous-suburbs-in-america?page=2.
henrytheangryredneck. Comment on “28/F looking to move into East Point, more specifically around the Colonial Hills neighborhood.” reddit, 2013–2014, www.reddit.com/r/Atlanta/comments/2f3358/28f_looking_to_move_to_east_point_more/
indemnitypop. Comment on “28/F looking to move into East Point, more specifically around the Colonial Hills neighborhood.” reddit, 2013–2014, www.reddit.com/r/Atlanta/comments/2f3358/28f_looking_to_move_to_east_point_more/.
“Metro Atlanta City Named Country’s Most Dangerous.” Atlanta, GA News, Weather, Events, Photos, 9 Apr. 2014, www.cbs46.com/story/25209443/metro-atlanta-city-countrys-most-dangerous.
Park, School of Business Administration, Korea University, Jochiwon-Eup, Yongi-Gun, Chungnam, 339-700, South Korea.