App That Crowdsources ‘Sketchy’ Areas Fights Charges of Racism

David Murphy, PC Mag, August 9, 2014

On paper, it sounds like a good idea: A smartphone app that uses crowd-sourced data to inform you of the more unsafe areas of your neighborhood. You might not need such a thing if you’ve lived in a particular area for a while, but it might be useful if you’re navigating a new city and have absolutely no idea where you should or shouldn’t go.

The problem? Allegations have been made that the app in question, Sketch Factor, is racist–unintentionally or otherwise.

“If the purpose of the app is meant to be about safety–real safety, not just perceived safety–then you’d think the app would rely on actual crime data, at least a little bit, as opposed to purely anecdotal reports. But no. The app will only tell you what ‘seemed sketchy’ to other people,” Bustle’s Emma Cueto writes. “And if we are to assume that most of these users are young white people with smart phones, then it isn’t long before people’s internalized biases […] start to rear their ugly heads.”

While anyone is free to report anything on SketchFactor that he or she perceives as “sketchy”–which can be anything from the presence of people on a street corner that an individual doesn’t particularly feel safe around to something as benign as poor lighting in a particular area–the app does pull in crime data for cities that offer it. As reported by the New York Daily News, Washington D.C. and Chicago are two such examples, though New York City is not.

“We’re hoping that an app like this can excite the city of New York into digitizing some of its crime data,” said the app’s co-founder, Allison McGuire, told the paper.

As for the allegations of racism, McGuire and the app’s other founder, Daniel Herrington, have been quick to address the issues on SketchFactor’s website.

“SketchFactor is a tool that can be used anywhere at any time by anyone. The app is not exclusive to privileged communities or tourists. Many of our users experience racial profiling, police misconduct, and harassment. We encourage all users to report this information. In addition, we partner with community organizations to ensure all members of the community have access to this app,” reads the app’s FAQ.


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  • MekongDelta69

    One slight correction:
    “‘Sketchy’ areas tend to be non-white.”

    Should read:
    “‘Sketchy’ areas are always non-white.”

  • Add Ferguson and Dellwood and Jennings, all in Missouri to that app’s list of sketchy areas.

    • connorhus

      Forest Park?

      • dd121

        We used to go to Duff’s restaurant a lot. Heard it closed.

    • dd121

      When I lived there in the 70s I don’t remember those areas being that bad. Either I was wrong, or it’s changed.

      • No you weren’t wrong, it’s just that a lot can happen demographically in 40 years.

        • ElComadreja

          It sure can. My city has become a cesspit in exactly that span of time.

  • dd121

    So what? Is there a law that makes it illegal to inform drivers where not to go for their own safety? Sounds to me like the purest form of “racism”.


      I remember reading over at Council of Conservative Citizens once. That a typical white liberal reporter refused to tell Kyle, one of CofCC’s mods. The race of a group of “teens” that were assaulting random people near a stadium on multiple nights. After refusing and skirting around questions as to why he wouldn’t tell him, he finally said something along these lines. “Well, lets say I hypothetically told you that they were black “teens”, would that make you look at black teens with more suspicion there?” Kyle answers, like any normal human being would, saying, YES! “Uh-huh”, says the typical white liberal reporter, “that’s why I don’t give out the racial information, it’s not fair to those black “teens” who have nothing to do with it”.

      Completely lost on him is the fairness of subjecting their potential victims to assault or even death. Just so a typical white liberal reporter can feel good about himself for a while. Also lost on him is the fact that if he would’ve said it was a group of white “teens” assaulting random people at the stadium on multiple nights. It would make everyone, Kyle included, look at groups of white “teens” in that area with a bit more suspicion as well. That’s called (( Informing The Public ))! The most important thing that was totally lost on him, and sadly society as a whole. Is the fact that journalism used to be about reporting the facts as they are. Giving people, all people, no matter their race, religion or creed. The vital information they need to make appropriate, and responsible decisions about they and their families lives. Information can save lives, and to arbitrarily restrict it merely to appease one group or another’s racial vanity. Should be a crime in and of itself!

      • TXCriollo

        Ya back in my early 20s now in mid i use to argue with libs on race of criminals but figured out you just talk in circles. They just cant get it

        • Whitetrashgang

          They do not want to get it. It would hurt their brains to much.

          • Periapsis

            Indeed it does, or their brains were sucked out figuratively if not literally.

        • MarcB1969

          At some point the cognitive dissonance becomes too great to ignore and they eventually get it. Many just never acknowledge it publicly.

      • IBWHITE

        It’s been over 20 years ago but I remember a local news station decided to go into East Saint Louis, Illinois to find some positive aspects of the city since there was so much negative being reported. They arrived downtown in the middle of the day and started unloading equipment to begin filming. Within 30 minutes they were robbed of all their equipment and personal belongings in broad daylight on a city main street. I just love a happy ending to a good story.

        • dd121

          Do you remember when Miss Hullings accidentally got off the wrong ramp and wound up in E. St. Louis? She got mugged. I used to love her cinnamon ham and cheese sandwiches.


            So just who exactly is Miss Hullings friend? Come on dd121, you can’t tease us with a possible tale of an idiotic liberal receiving a real world reality check without giving us some details.

  • TruthBeTold

    I posted on this article last night. All my posts and hundreds more have been deleted and the comments are closed.

    oh, 100% agreement at how ridicules it is get in trouble for telling the truth.

    • JohnEngelman

      “Racism” consists of telling the truth. It gets people fired.

    • edwin karninsky

      I went to the next available article and commented there.

      • TruthBeTold

        It was a great thread. Everyone was in agreement. They had to shut it down; too much truth.

  • Good Lord, whites can’t say “poor black neighborhood,” “bad areas,” and now not even “sketchy” area because it might be deemed ‘racist’?! The insanity is too much at times to take. Pretty soon whites won’t be allowed to say anything except maybe grunt and point, but eventually even that will be viewed as a ‘silent form or racism.’

    • Michael Whalen

      I believe that “micro-aggression” is the term you are searching for.

  • anony

    So what if the truth hurts?

    • The Cultural Marxists tend to like calling the truth “Hate Facts”.

      • tancred guiscard

        Interestingly enough, it works just as well if you assume the hate in “hate facts” is a verb. An apt description of many cult marxists.

  • Frank_DeScushin

    The app warns people who don’t want to be crime victims of high crime areas. Of course, predominantly black areas are always high crime areas. Rational people would try to change the crime rate in their neighborhood and thus change their reputation. As always, we have yet another incident of black people being more concerned about their hurt feelings than protecting innocent people.

  • baldowl

    I use the app to tag as dangerous any area in which I find black people.

  • Who Me?

    “then you’d think the app would rely on actual crime data, at least a little bit, as opposed to purely anecdotal reports.”
    Except for one VERY important thing. Not all crime is reported–for all sorts of reasons–and not all crime that is reported ever makes it to the numbers crunchers that produce the statistics.


    Again, another episode of “how dare they notice that our collective bad behavior makes our communities SKETCHY”!

  • kjh64

    “And if we are to assume that most of these users are young white people with smart phones, then it isn’t long before people’s internalized biases […] start to rear their ugly heads.””

    It’s not “internalized bias”, it’s reality. Virtually all bad neighborhoods are Black.

    • TXCriollo

      Ya i left work today stopped at the store and low and behold i hear two white hipsters talking about it. Austin has a concentration of hipsters they seem to leave there area to spread wonder and joy, not really they just annoy everyone. I was in line just minding my own when this topic came up. This new app is racist, how they have smart phones with no job is beyond me, it profiles black people. I asked them where yall from. San Francisco i was like makes sense, next question was do you hit up oakland alot. Answer no its bad ok how bout detroit, no thats the worst city in america gary indiana south side of chicago hotlanta. Nahh there all bad i asked what do they all have in common? The one says they have a lot of black people. Bingo. Liberals never live in the bad areas so they will never understand

  • Whitetrashgang

    I guess what you could do is have a app showing areas where there is a lot of fat woman. Yeah I know it not much better but you could some have fun with it.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    The app reacts to crime data, not race; therefore only racists would link crime data to “race.”

    The only thing you need to know is the location of MLK Blvd.

    Just ask Chris Rock:

    Where you at? Martin Luther King Boulevard?? Run!! Run for your life!!

  • Caucasoid88

    Serial self-loather and liberal douchebag extraordinaire Sam Biddle of Gawker brought this racism claim to the mainstream. I sent him a few choice words on Twitter. But, the app isn’t “racist” — the claims are.

    I bet there are a ton of white neighborhoods that are equally dangerous in this app’s data set. At least three.

    Once again, it isn’t colorful people of color that are out to destroy this app; it’s white people.

  • Brian

    If you went by location of reported crimes, here in my city you would think the nice, largely white, historic college area of the city was a ghetto. That’s because mass transit and proximity allows the youff from the black section of town to prowl about in the white areas looking for people to assault and rob and things to steal.

  • MBlanc46

    I hope that the folks at Sketch Factor don’t even respond to this nonsense, or respond by calling it nonsense.

  • WR_the_realist

    If New York City and other big cities do digitize their crime data nobody will be surprised when the “sketchy” areas as reported by anecdote turn out to match up well with the “sketchy” areas as determined by the crime data — and those will be the areas with plenty of diversity of the sun people sort. When that happens the objective digitized data will be declared racist and there will be unrelenting pressure to censor it.

    Some things are very easy to predict.

  • LHathaway

    ‘crowd-sourced data’, ‘sketchy’, ‘dodgy’. . . I can see it now, these are the new words we wont be able to use.

  • c684570

    Didn’t Mr. Taylor edit a similar computer magazine to the one that published this?

  • Mrfinoni

    When on vacation in the States I most always check the crime stats before I go anywhere and studiously avoid the Black areas. I made the mistake once of going on a bit of a detour through a part of Youngstown, Ohio. Some very sketchy neighborhoods. When I got home I checked the demographics; Huge crime rate, 45% Black, 10% Hispanic. These are the the kind of mistakes that one can not afford to make these days! Great App!

    • silviosilver

      If you avoid blacks you’ll avoid crime by default.

  • Mentious

    It’s funny how blacks love to say “rear it’s ugly head.” That’s one of their Erudition Phrases. Um, maybe the White Community is sick of black violence rearing its way uglier head.

  • Screamin_Ruffed_Grouse

    I seem to recall this hubub coming up over a similar app a few years ago, nicknamed the “Avoid Ghetto” app. Same charge of racism.

    Personally, I don’t need an app for that. Just open a map, locate Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and find a way around it.

    • tancred guiscard

      Laughably true. In my city, its martin luther king boulevard. Not martin luther, not martin luther king jr., but martin luther king. Homage to his dad? What the hell?

      • Shawn_thefemale

        I have to one-up you. We have martin luther king junior boulevard. Every sainted syllable of it. And in our town the boulevard is nowhere near the danger areas. Yet.

  • benvad

    Mitigating circumstances, that’s the reason for those areas.

  • benvad

    They are the exception, black areas filled with problems are the RULE!

  • NothingMan00

    Does the app measure melanin concentration in different areas?

  • Chasmania

    They need to have an ebonics translator app, if it doesn’t already exist. Nomesayin ?

    • Stan D Mute

      Why? They have nothing intelligent to say. An Ebonics avoider is infinitely more useful.

      • Chasmania

        On the off chance one might want to know when they’re saying ” Fries with that ? ” or the like…. They’re here, and at times interaction may be required, if not desired.

  • Reverend Bacon

    Interesting to see all the past literature on the subject, especially from the loony left like huffpo and NPR:



  • ElComadreja

    Give me Southie over Roxbury or North Dorchester any day.

  • ElComadreja

    Who remembers the family that was killed by a pack called the “Avenues Gang” when they took a wrong turn in LA some years back? The app might have saved their lives.

  • Magician

    It’s whiteys’ fault

  • Stan D Mute

    If Africans were “a gentle, simple, and harmless agrarian race” whites (and every other people) would have no problem with them whatever. I’ve never heard anyone say, “you gotta watch out for those Sherpas! Sherpa neighborhoods can be very dangerous at night.” The only thing Africans’ appearance has to do with anything is that it makes identification much easier.

  • Periapsis

    An app that warns of ethnic no-go zones that could save white’s lives. What’s there not to like?


    Well I’m surprised you don’t know already, but it’s all part of our “White Devil” plan. See, we created the “hip hop gangsta rap” genre to discredit their image < many black racist really believe that ), and we then use volunteer members of the local KKK outfit. To dress up in black face to head out there pulling drive byes and all sorts of other crimes in what would otherwise be peaceful, and pleasant black communities. As I'm sure you can tell the dedicated members of the KKK have been putting in some serious work. It's a tiring job but someones gotta do it. Lord knows the peaceful people of color sure as h— won't!

  • Simonetta

    Actually this is only half of the program. The other half consists of embedding RFID tags into the heads of ‘at-risk yoofs’ who have been convicted of serious felonies (not just smokin’ weed) and are too young to be processed as violent criminals.

    Then every time that they enter a store or public place, the RFID module at the door notes their presence and sends a message to the local police station or community Nig’A’lert center which updates a web page every minute.

    Then normal law-abiding citizens can access that web page on their smart-phones and know the concentration of criminals in any public location before they decide to enter it. That is what public safety is all about.

    And, no, it is not racist. Because the young blacks who have not committed serious felonies would not have the RFID chip embedded in their heads, and would not trigger the public security system when they entered the premises.

    Granted, this wouldn’t inform the public about the varmits who are about to commit serious violent felonies in that particular public place or store. But it would give the rest of us a good ‘heads-up’ about what we are walking into and who we are going to find there.

  • golgisupreme

    I reckon hotel reviews are also racist.

  • De Doc

    To steal the words of Pvt Gomer Pyle, USMC, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”