On the run to becoming president of the United States, Donald Trump revealed his controversial stand on crime by retweeted the following data:
According to these statistics, only 1% of black people were killed by police in 2015, whereas 97% were killed by those of the same race. In line with many critics of the Black Lives Matter movement, Donald Trump is suggesting that “black-on-black” violence is a far more pressing concern that police brutality against blacks. This logic, however, does not hold when taking into account that nearly just as many white murder victims were also killed by white perpetrators in 2015 (Bump, 2017). The issue of gun violence, therefore, is not related to black people per-se. The racial correlation between perpetrators and victims is more likely linked to the fact that people are more inclined to spend time with people who share their racial identity(Bump, 2017).
Although it is no surprise that Trump’s tweet is statistically misleading, the pervasiveness of “black-on-black” violence cannot be denied. The term “black-on-black” violence refers to the disproportionately high levels of violent crime that occurs among black Americans. Due to a long history of exclusion from important economic and social opportunities, black Americans have been the target of violent crimes nationwide. Since poverty and crime are deeply intertwined, black residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods experience high levels of crime (Braga & Brunson, 2015).
The purpose of this report is to examine the prevalence of “black-on-black” shootings within New York City. My visualization aims to expose the racial phenomena that continues to plague our city, in the hopes that the social and economic backdrop can be addressed. In the process of writing this report, I realized that it is easy to put a number on “black-on-black” shootings, but the social implications are difficult to map. For the majority of black Americans who are not involved in criminal behavior, the term “black-on-black” violence can be marginalizing and discriminating. For this reason, I hope viewers will take my data with a grain of salt and scrutinize the story behind the numbers.
The goal of my visualization is to show the prevalence of “black-on-black” shootings in New York City. In order to capture the racial pattern, I searched for a data set that contained spatial and demographic information about shooting incidents in NYC. On NYC Open Data I encountered an extensive data file on the NYPD Shooting Incidents. The dataset lists every shooting incident that occurred in NYC from 2013 to the end of 2018. Each record represents a shooting incident in NYC and includes information about the event, the location and time of occurrence. In addition, information related to suspect and victim demographics is also provided.
NYC Open Data
This website offers free public access to data published by New York City agencies. Users can find data relevant to business, city government, education, environment, and health topics. For this project, I used NYC Open Data to find historic evidence of shooting incidents in NYC.
This platform provides GIS and web making tools to create interactive online maps. Carto processes data to build dynamic visualizations and provide spatial insights. For this project, I used Carto to build an animated map showing “black-on-black” shooting incidents in NYC from 2013 to 2018.
NYC Department of Planning
The NYC Department of Planning provides downloadable shapefiles of New York City political, administrative and census geographies. I used the NYC Department of Planning website to download a shapefile of New York’s neighborhood zones so that the location of shootings among black Americans could be distinguished by urban region.
In order to create a map on Carto, I searched for a dataset that included longitude and latitude columns on NYC Open Data, because Carto requires spatial data points to visualize data. After finding the NYPD’s account of shooting incidents in NYC, I downloaded the data into Carto and chose a base map that labeled the broad regions of NYC. I wanted users to be able to see that “black-on-black” shootings occur mostly in underprivileged areas of NYC, like Harlem and Bushwick. I layered the “HERE Reduced Day” base map with a shapefile from NYC Department of Planning to delineate the neighborhood boundaries. I assigned a pop-up feature to the map so that when users click on the areas with most “black-on-black” shootings, they can see the name of the neighborhood.
I wanted to make an animated visualization of the shooting incidents, so that the persistent racial pattern could be seen across time. So I selected the NYPD Shooting Incidents layer and added the time series widget to the “incident date” column. I edited the widget so that it would run for 30 seconds from December 2012 to January 2018. Then I designated the point color by value of “perpetrator race,” so that the main focus on the map was racial demographics. Lastly, I edited the point color so that black Americans could be differentiated from the rest. In line with the issue at hand, I assigned a violent red color to black shootings and a gray-black color to the other races. I then increased the rendering of each pixel to give off the appearance of blood staining the map.
I think that my visualization captures the grim reality of shooting incidents in NYC. From 2013 to 2018, it is apparent that black Americans have been source and target of armed violence in New York City, and that most of these shootings occur in poorer regions of the city, like Harlem, Bushwick, South Jamaica, and Bedford. Although my map only traces the shooter race, the statistics hold for victim race; red overpopulates the map either way.
If I had more time to develop this map, I would have liked to reveal the relationship between victim and perpetrator race to truly capture the term “black-on-black” violence. I would use centroids to show the distance between victim and perpetrator, similar to the map of Chicago’s police stations and crimes shown below. Additionally, I think it is important to put into perspective the economic and social backdrop behind the racial issue. I would color the map based on average income so that the relationship between poverty and crime is more apparent.