What an analysis of tweets reveals about safety and danger in America

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When it comes to trends, Twitter’s on top of things. After all, the social media platform has been used to track everything from earthquakes to food poisoning to the popularity of the Kardashians. But now, apartment search site Abodo has taken the wealth of information Twitter provides to track a slightly more dangerous trend — crime rates in cities and states across the U.S. While we may no longer live in the days of the Wild West, a violent crime still occurs every 26 seconds in America. And to examine just what social media had to say about the frequency of such incidents, Adobo scoured 18 months’ worth of geotagged Twitter posts for crime-related words.

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Search terms included words like “assaulted,” “violence against women,” “killing,” “stolen,” and others often associated with dangerous situations. Frighteningly, Adobo’s study found that the words “killing” and “killed” were by far the most common crime-related terms on Twitter, occurring about six times more often than the nearest competitors (“stealing” and “stolen”). That said, this is likely because “kill” often appears non-literally — in reality, property crimes are actually six times more common than violent crimes, including homicide, in the U.S.

Twitter’s data in general lines up alarmingly well with national crime data. The tweet analysis suggested that the most crime-laden state is Nevada, with crime-related terms appearing nearly five times as frequently as they did in Wyoming, which had the fewest number of related tweets. Much of this, it seems, would have to do with Las Vegas’ reputation and its violent crime rate, which stands 59 percent higher than the national average. Nevada as a state is the second worst offender when it comes to violent crime.

While crime-related tweets don’t necessarily mean that crime is occurring at a higher rate, it is interesting to note that the two cities with the most relevant tweets, New Orleans and Philadelphia, have each seen jumps in their homicide rates in the last few years. Philly saw 277 murders in 2015 (a 12-percent increase year over year), whereas New Orleans saw a 15-percent rise.

When it come to drug-related tweets, Twitter and reality were also pretty well aligned. Albuquerque, New Mexico tweets the most about substance crime, and sure enough, the NDIC recently declared New Mexico a high-intensity drug trafficking area. New Orleans also ranks highly when it comes to tweets, and given the city’s ongoing heroin epidemic, it’s no surprise that it’s a subject residents are talking about on social media.

And perhaps worst of all, sex crimes and their related tweets tend to reflect unfortunate realities. Oregon, which sees the greatest amount of Twitter activity on the subject, also claims the second-highest number of registered sex offenders of any state. New York is also problematic, recording 540 rapes in the first six months of 2015, representing an eight-percent rise from 2014.

So if you’re considering a move to a new state or city, it may be worth checking out what Twitter has to say about the area. You’d be surprised by how much tweets can tell you.

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