I Live in America’s Most Dangerous Suburb

Downtown East Point

According to Movoto.com, East Point, Georgia is America’s most dangerous suburb. As an eight-year resident of East Point, I received this news with a curious mix of pride and loathing. On the one hand, anyone who lives in a “most dangerous” anywhere must by definition be tough and manly—and I have always wanted to be tough and manly. On the other, I was not aware that I had been living in a suburb—and I have always, always been an impassioned opponent of suburban living.

Of course, no one should really take the Movoto.com article seriously. It is based upon sloppy methodology, faulty assumptions, and questionable conclusions. To paraphrase Dean Yeager from Ghostbusters, “you are poor social scientists, movoto.com.” But the tragedy here is that people actually do take it seriously. The article made major news outlets, and has had over 100,000 facebook views at present. A local Atlanta-area blogger cited the study in a sturdy admonition to out-of-towners not to visit East Point. Ever. It is that dangerous.

So how did East Point win the crown? The Movoto.com article is brazenly frank about its spare methodology. It analyzed crime data for 120 suburbs across the nation. Or maybe 116. Both totals are cited in the article as the number of suburbs under review. Good start, guys.

Any social scientist knows that the selection of data for a study must be done carefully, with an eye to picking distinguishing features in order to create roughly comparable data for analysis. In this study, then, one would expect that the definition of a suburb—the core unit under examination—was given thorough and careful consideration. So the authors chose the largest suburbs of the 50 largest cities in the country. In the words of Chris Kolmar of Movoto.com: “1. We started with Wikipedia’s list of inner-ring suburbs 2. Then expanded to ‘if Wikipedia says it’s a suburb we used it,’ 3. Then proximity if a big city didn’t have any ‘official’ suburbs or other cities touching it.”

Thanks, Wikipedia. You don’t ruin just undergraduate essays.

Taste of East Point EP 2013 Chili cookoff
Kathryn Mehl/Kish Mir Bubelah Photography 2011-2014

The authors fare no better when they attempt to count crimes. Data was culled from the FBI’s uniform crime report for 2012. The authors composed a data set consisting of: 1) Murder; 2) Rape; 3) Robbery; 4) Assault; 5) Burglary; 6) Theft; and 7) Vehicle Theft. These statistics were then divided into “four distinct groups: murders, violent crimes, property crimes, and total crimes.”

If someone would like to explain how “total crimes” is a distinct group, then … great. And it is not entirely clear whether “violent crimes” includes murder or is intended to mean “other violent crimes.” But precision and rigor are overrated anyway, right?

It gets better. The authors weighted the results “whereby murder, total violent crime, and total property crime each comprised 30 percent of the final score each and total crimes made up 10 percent.” This produced a “chance of crime” ratio for each location. Then the weighted score “was used to determine the most dangerous suburb.” No rationale was given for this particular weighting system. Nor is it clear how the “chance of crime” ratio is calculated, or even what it means. For instance, I learned that I have a “1 in 8” chance of being a victim of crime in East Point. During my lifetime? In 2012? When I walk out the door in the morning?

In order to compare “apples to apples” (a conceit already belied by the selection methodology employed to determine what is a suburb), movoto.com converted all crime rates to per 100,000. This is standard practice in the literature, but it has the perverse effect in this case of exaggerating crime. East Point was listed, for instance, as having had 34 murders per 100,000 people. Too bad the city in 2012 had 12 homicides, a fact that numerous people complained about in online comments. The authors defended their number as being “correct because when you apply the same mathematical transformation to crimes/per person to all cities, the rankings don’t change.”

I’m glad the people at movoto.com can do eighth-grade math. Too bad the education stopped there. I will leave aside, for a moment, the obvious problem in trying to compare “apples with apples” with suburb populations ranging from 11,000 to 225,000. But the authors never appear to grasp how these numbers are generated in the first place. At no point, for instance, do they stop to consider whether crime reporting, particularly regarding property crimes, might affect their numbers. Thieves have broken into my car, for instance, in three different cities. But the only place I reported it was East Point.

And what about crime trends? Criminologists have long understood that crime figures only make sense when normalized and placed in time over a sequential period. Individual years may not be representative and, in any case, are meaningless unless contextualized. But by now you are likely yawning. Why take this article seriously when it is so clearly … not serious?

East Point Farmers Market

There is one obvious reason—I want to make clear that I don’t live in a suburb. East Point is virtually South Atlanta, and to the naked eye there is no distinction between the two areas short of a city limits sign. We suffer the same kinds of crime, the same safety issues, the same economic problems as does a major metropolitan region. And I consider that a good thing. I like the diversity, the intensity, and the edge. I live in a bungalow built in 1946, in a neighborhood where I can buy fresh eggs from a neighbor with chickens down the street, visit the farmers market on weekends in downtown East Point (a mile and a half away), and eat at our local pizzeria where our neighborhood schoolchildren’s art hangs on the walls. We have a sense of place here, a feeling of community. This ain’t no suburb. We aren’t all spread out in ticky-tack tract-housing and pretending to smile at each other across concrete driveways while looking forward to that night’s pilgrimage to a corner strip mall where we’ll ask a server at Applebee’s to defrost a pound of boneless buffalo wings for our passionless enjoyment.

There is another reason I take movoto.com’s article seriously, and it is because of the disservice that it does to the numerous people who work to make East Point a great place to live. I begin by conceding that East Point has crime problems. It has a lot of problems, actually. Much of urban America does, but these problems are complex and deserve to be treated as such. Shoving East Point into a careless “top ten” list when the authors have not even stepped foot in East Point is insulting.

I can already hear the protest from movoto.com—we just looked at numbers! We didn’t create the crime report, we just interpreted it! But this is precisely the problem. In our current society, big data rules. Nate Silver has proven this beyond a doubt, although I should be clear that Nate Silver, unlike the folks at Movoto.com, has the statistical expertise to use big data effectively and responsibly. But whether competently assembled or not, numbers carry authority. They are neutral. Objective.

And this is precisely why we should not trust numbers. We must approach them critically, questioning how they are assembled. We have already seen how movoto.com’s methodology is hopelessly flawed and careless. But critical reception of numbers requires more than just questioning their assembly and deployment. We must also be aware of what they can show us and what they cannot.

What makes a suburb, city, or any place, “dangerous”? Crime rates alone do not help us here, as they cannot tell us how or why crime happens. Nor do the crimes movoto.com used to create its rankings really make sense. Take vehicle thefts, for instance. Unless we are talking about a carjacking, a vehicle theft is not dangerous to one’s person. Just one’s car. But never mind. “Crime = crime,” explained Chris Kolmar of movoto.com. And so the numbers are now pressed into the service of labeling East Point “dangerous,” a word freighted with cultural implications.

In the case of East Point, it comes down to race. East Point is a city with a majority Black population, abutting the Black majority of South Atlanta. It has been so for a long time, but was made infinitely more so when a federally-subsidized highway system and the Civil Rights Movement’s challenges to legal segregation sent many white families rushing north to any number of suburbs in Cobb County and … wherever. This demographic trend was not limited to Atlanta and is a well-known epoch in our history. It coincided with a period of deindustrialization that visited staggering unemployment and poverty to urban working-class neighborhoods, many of them Black. Crime predictably followed.

So too did the pernicious racial myths. Cities, populated by Blacks, became loathsome places. Suburbs, lily-white, were idylls. This is the cultural assumption that movoto.com takes into its use of numbers, which it announces in its lead in: “Suburbs are supposed to be safe havens from the crime of big cities.” This is naked racism, rooted in ignorance and served up in a snappy hip “top ten” list.

Destination East Point 2012
Kathryn Mehl/Kish Mir Bubelah Photography 2011-2014

In the last two decades, the children of white-flight have begun a slow return to the city of Atlanta. Intown living is now fashionable. Midtown, once an open-air sex market, is now fully gentrified. Just east of downtown, Inman Park, once crumbling, is now thriving. The Old Forth Ward, once a great place to score smack, now vaguely resembles Williamsburg in Brooklyn—all trendy restaurants and cocktail bars and artists living in repurposed warehouses.

But if these areas are becoming “safe” again, or at least safe enough for what remains of America’s middle class to poke around in, East Point clearly is not. Witness blogger Sebastian Davis of thrillist.com listing among the “18 things you have to explain to out-of-towners about Atlanta,” that you just don’t visit East Point. Davis explains that “it was just rated ‘the most dangerous suburb in America’ for a reason,” and provides a helpful hyperlink to movoto.com’s article.

Translation: stay out of the Black part of town.

Sebastian Davis might protest that he did not intend it that way, but the rest of his article pretty much confirms his thoughtless racism. “No one rides MARTA,” proclaims Davis. Well, the ridership of MARTA is overwhelmingly Black, making them all, apparently, “no one” in Davis’s estimation. “Our traffic is worse than your traffic,” Davis tells the out-of-towner. “We’re not touching the interstate between 4 pm and 8 pm.” Well, this is true if you live in one of those white-flight northern suburbs, where traffic is possibly the worst I’ve seen. (And I’ve lived in Los Angeles.) But traffic is moderate on the southside interstate, where, again, we have a majority Black population. But we are not part of Davis’s “We.”

And the point, emphatically, is that Sebastian Davis uncritically took movoto.com’s authoritative labeling of East Point as America’s most dangerous suburb as fact, in essence reinforcing his own cultural assumptions about what the Black part of town must be like.

Which is sad. One wouldn’t know from these pernicious stereotypes that East Point is a diverse and tolerant community. We have a sizable gay population, and the East Point Possums put on the Southeast’s largest drag show here every year. The Tricities 5k/10k is a great event for runners, while the Dick Lake Velodrome draws amateur and professional outdoor bicycle races. For Halloween parties, I’ll put up Bryan Avenue against any neighborhood in the metropolitan area. Residents there annually recreate the zombie apocalypse, complete with special effects and staged set pieces for the delight of thousands of East Pointers. The police do barricade the street at both ends, but just to keep the cars out. Makes it slightly less dangerous, I suppose.

None of these things fit the narrative of the “safe haven” suburb and the “dangerous” city, especially if you are trying to label a suburb “dangerous.” In fact, not much of what makes East Point special translates into “chance of” rates or statistical summaries. I would wager that this is true of most things that make life worth living.

There is a silver lining. Movoto.com’s article doesn’t actually rank East Point America’s most dangerous suburb! Rather, the authors write that “we’ve determined that Camden, NJ is the most dangerous overall.” The list which then follows ranks East Point most dangerous and Camden second.

Even my first-grade child can do better than that.

H. Robert Baker teaches history at Georgia State University. He writes primarily about the Constitution and slavery, having published two very good books on the subject. He is currently working on a book about Napa Valley in the 1970s and 80s. 

Author: H. Robert Baker

Robert Baker teaches at Georgia State University, in Atlanta, Georgia. He lives in East Point, Georgia. He is not originally from Georgia.

60 thoughts

  1. You have a great article here, don’t get me wrong. About 50% of my friends live in EP and I feel just as at home at Oz Pizza or EP Tavern as I do up here in my native Lawrenceville in Gwinnett. But you seriously need to recalibrate your understanding of how white flight is impacting the northern suburbs of Gwinnett. Duluth, Lilburn, Norcross, Lawrenceville, Buford, and all of the little unincorporated neighborhoods which tie these cities together (Pinckneyville, Centerville, etc.) are extremely diverse because of continued white flight. Much of Gwinnett resembles DeKalb in its diversity and cultural vibrancy. Sure, we don’t have the fancy local pubs and diners, but I have gigantic Korean supermarkets all around me. I can buy better kimchi, pho, tamales and vindaloo in Gwinnett than anywhere ITP. Come on up to Duluth or Lawrenceville and you’ll know what I mean.

    1. If your point is that northern metro communities have been diversified by global and regional migration and deserves more than being reduced to a caricature, then I will cheerfully concede the point.

      1. Actually, that was my point, so I appreciate the concession. Honestly, Cobb and North Fulton have earned the ongoing caricature, but Gwinnett is beautifully diverse and is increasing so. Regardless, thank you for your well-thought out article.

    2. I am a grandmother who visits my granddaughter in East Point at least three times a year. I must say I feel comfortable in this diverse neighborhood and never threatened. I have wheeled her around in her wagon, taken her on walks with a small dog, walked with her to her music lesson, and it never ever seemed worrisome or threatening. Most threatening neighborhood? I don’t think so.

  2. As a person who’s lived in many places ranked as most dangerous, and clearly a thinly cloaked euphemism for racism (namely Oakland, CA which is a gorgeous place to live) I really appreciated this excellent article. I have been to visit Atlanta many times, and I stayed with friends in East Point several times on these visits. I was truly shocked to read that this place could be called “dangerous.” I thought it was a lovely, diverse, thriving community. Diversity is very important to me, and this community was wonderful. What an unfortunate label to give such a sweet community. You know, if our movoto.com peeps were really going to do their danger pointing any real justice, they could at least talk about the rogue chicken gangs! Now, that’s an article I’d like to read! Maybe next time, eh?

  3. >>>looking forward to that night’s pilgrimage to a corner strip mall where we’ll ask a server at Applebee’s to defrost a pound of boneless buffalo wings for our passionless enjoyment.


  4. Excellent piece, Rob. A lot of us who live on Atlanta’s southside know intuitively what you wrote, but don’t have the academic approach to dissect the problems in the original article. Thank you for that.

    Other than my college years in Athens, I’ve essentially lived my whole life in College Park, Georgia and my wife and I are raising our family here. If anything, Rob’s article is too modest in extolling our charms in the tri-cities area. I realize that every evening this summer when I’m out catching fireflies with our boys, next to our oft-used Free Little Library, after a get-together with friends up the street or dinner at a range of options nearby.

    Do we have continued work to do on the southside? Absolutely. But do I feel more at risk than I would in other areas – raising our two boys adjacent to “American’s Most Dangerous Suburb”? Of course not, or we wouldn’t be here.

    Here’s to what we’ve all built together on the southside so far, and the good things that lie ahead.

  5. So well written. Every person attempting to write an “informative” article should read this one first! You got me at “Wikipedia.”

  6. I greatly enjoyed your excellent article. I’ve lived in East Point in the past, and have spent 34 years here as a lawyer (in fact you can see my building in the photo you used). Do we have crime and can we do better as to crime? Sure. But we are nowhere near the most dangerous neighborhood in America, or Georgia or even metro Atlanta. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk accurately about the purported study.

  7. Reblogged this on . A.K. Anderson and commented:
    I, too, live in East Point and felt a lot of these same things about that poorly done survey. I see people’s assumptions about my MARTA commute and hometown and I see these numbers and sigh.

    I told my neighbors once that I needed a bumper sticker that read “I don’t want to live where I blend in, I want to live where I belong.” THAT is East Point, at the heart of it.

    1. Good one, AK – me too! I’ve been a MARTA rider from College Park for 15 years and wouldn’t do it any other way.

      One thing we need to do on the southside is embrace MARTA as an amenity (like downtown Decatur, whose downtown hotspots seem almost predicated on the existence of the lovely MARTA station) and not a downside. As we both know, MARTA is very much an upside!

  8. And Ballethnic Dance Company Inc. celebrates it’s 25th Anniversary January 15th…based at 2587 Cheney St. in East Point. July 5th presenting a free outdoor event for the community…the Cheney Cultural Cul De Sac which will begin at 6pm and end on the corner observing the East Point Fireworks. Food, fellowship, and fun…right in East Point. Be sure to see the Ballethnic Community Garden as this event takes place on newly renovated Ballethnic’s Outdoor Stage. Vendor space is available. Also 5 minute performance slots available. The many people that have joined Ballethnic from many parts of metropolitan Atlanta have come to realize that East Point is much better than the snobs who mislabel it! Contact 404-762-1416 for Information or Dance Classes http://www.ballethnic.org

  9. I was born in East Point and grew up in nearby Riverdale. My mom owned a beauty shop in East Point (Tri-Cities Plaza — with the old McCrory’s) so I spent a lot of time there as a kid. I now live in Washington, DC, and I can tell you that our traffic is worse than Atlanta. It’s nice to hear that East Point is making a come back. It’s a great location and it was so sad to see it deteriorate for years. Whenever I visit Atlanta I always use MARTA. I’ve always found it safe and clean.

  10. Thank you! As someone who lives just outside of Clarkston — another “bad” neighborhood — I get tired of fighting the stereotypes based in racism. We aren’t as vibrant as East Point- — yet — but we have a strong community and are growing.

  11. I’m a seven-year resident of East Point who fully recognizes that we have many challenges and hard work ahead of us to help the city reach its full potential. But, as somebody else posted above, it’s far from being the most dangerous suburb in metro Atlanta, much less the entire country. Movoto is little more than a poorly written blog that regularly churns out poorly researched “top 10” lists simply to drive web traffic to its real estate site. Their quest for additional business blinds them to any sense of accountability related to the damage such lists can inflict on the reputation of communities like East Point. I accused them of such in the comments section of the original story, making many of the same points in this article. Needless to say, my comment never made it through the editorial review process and was deleted. That should tell you everything you need to know about the moral compass of Movoto.

  12. An excellent piece!

    Even though I was raised in New Orleans and thereby I am bound by civic pride to not show too much affection towards Atlanta (urban rivalry, doncha know) or the greater Atlanta area, I still feel the pain of anyone whose city (or “suburb”) is misrepresented by some hack writer. There were plenty of these types arguing that New Orleans shouldn’t be rebuilt after the faulty levees the government built for us failed. Stay strong! Maligning urban (or “suburban”) areas filled with black people is a proud American tradition. We all have to keep fighting the good fight with truth and a bit of burning sarcasm.

  13. Good article. When I moved to Atlanta, everyone said, “move North of the city.” I’m from Chicago, I’ve lived in Detroit and LA. And I’ve worked in many tough locations. Have been through the Atlanta EP area a number of times now and it looks fine to me. Basing status on generic statistics is really a dangerous political statement. There are more important questions to ask; How are the schools? What type of situations commonly result in local crime? Is there a Racism or Harrassment conflict issue in a community?
    God bless EP!

    1. I’ve been out of town and away from internet (by way of quick apology for a late reply), but I wanted to reply to this post. If only because I too moved here from Chicago. (Uptown then Ravenswood.) I chose to live in East Point because I believed in the community I found here and how willing it was to rise to the challenges that you list–creating good schools, addressing local crime, and achieving tolerance and goodwill. These are struggles that are not judged on the basis of victory, but by the intensity of the struggle itself. I am proud of all those in my community who has put his/her foot down and demanded good schools, tolerance, and a better life for everyone. So thanks for your intelligent reply!

  14. Wonderfully, powerfully written. Thank you for highlighting the spirit of your neighborhood as well as dissecting the facts. As a nearly 10-year resident in East Atlanta, I can empathize with this sort of negative spotlight on a neighborhood that speaks to your core. I wish I could fast forward just 5 years or less for you to the time when folks are a buzz about your zoned public school being the bomb instead of crime stats.

  15. My Sociology professors would have give an F on this study for that blatant disregard to the guidelines for sample size and criteria. Looks like the people who performed the research, wanted to skew their data to intentionally get the desired outcome they wanted.

  16. Bravo! I live in downtown East Point. It is NOT a suburb. It is Atlanta. It’s just not Sebastian Davis’ Atlanta – which probably doesn’t have an African American women with dreadlocks and a Masters’ in Psychology, employed by a Fortune 500 company at the executive level. East Point does.

  17. It’s become increasingly clear to me that, for the bloggers at thrillist, “We” refers exclusively to young, straight, white men.

  18. This article is not accurate at all. It does not even come close to following guidelines set by the FBI for these statistics. In fact the 4 types of crime they base this on is actually used twice to come to this figure. After being counted individually they are counted again under total crimes for the area. This report on a BLOG site non the less was compiled by a real estate company for the express purpose of boosting their sales in certain areas of the state.

    1. Agreed agreed agreed. But by now you already know that the movoto people don’t listen to things like “reason” or understand concepts like “methodology.” And they keep doing it over and over again. And they keep getting lots of clicks. Hmmmmm

  19. Great article! Grew up and hang out a lot in East Point. Great city, and I’m just starting to learn about all the charm in the downtown area.

  20. I am currently a resident of East Point and I agree 100% that it’s not the suburb. East Point is a great place to live but has a little cleaning up to do. Washington Road from Chervon at the corner of Roosevelt to Chervon at the corner of Camp Creek is the roughest part of East Point. I believe with all the new development and renovation in the area shall come more authority to patrol and keep the areas more safe. The new businesses and residential properties need to better screen who they hire and accept to live on their property. The city as a whole need to do better with researching and updated database with more accurate information from criminal searches. On top of that, the City of East Point need to consider making utilities more affordable for every resident, rather it’s fix income or not. Make buying bills more realistic. If I am unable to buy my full bill at least have an arrangement option. Stop guesstimating my bill and have the city workers, who salary we are paying, get off they backsides and do the work for which they are hire to do. Put programs in place to help with children that struggling in school. It’s not enough academic programs to support the children that face challenging situations with learning. Why are we paying City and County taxes. It’s not beneficial to us( residents). It’s beneficial to the ones that run the city and may not even live in our city. You are ripping us off. We need to be able to live, save and pass down to our children and grandchildren, too. Lastly, the city officials need to get more involved in the community. We need to see your faces. Not just at election time but at community events and/or create a session, where we can come and just talk to you. It’s very vital now days. Other than this, East Point is a great place to live, convenient to Airport and Downtown Atlanta.

  21. I meant paying bills more realistic and affordable. I also meant, the City need to use an updated data base of criminal information to screen for residential and business hire approvals. Excuse my typos!

    1. Hello Kim! I am interested in moving to East Point and this article really helped make that decision. I wanted to know more about your comment on the utilities. Are you saying that electric, gas and water are exceptionally high in East Point? Or is it that their payment plans are inconvenient and outdated? Also, if folks aren’t coming in through the neighborhood to check the meters, are people getting overcharged without any way to dispute prices? Thanks in advance!

  22. Even if Moto’s #s are high, the danger is definitely there..If I may quote city data’s stats, being someone on here quoted 12 to be the actual # of murders. For a city of 22,000 that is very high, there is a place about same size up north called Newburgh NY who has a crime problem = to East Point… it isn’t a suburb to anywhere why it didn’t make the list but overall its 10th to 16th worst city in US according to annual stats..

    2012 2013
    (per 100,000) 8
    (19.3) 6
    (15.6) 5
    (13.2) 4
    (11.0) 7
    (16.7) 6
    (14.1) 6
    (13.9) 6
    (13.7) 7
    (16.5) 3
    (8.8) 12
    (34.1) 12

    (per 100,000) 17
    (41.1) 11
    (28.6) 12
    (31.7) 15
    (41.2) 14
    (33.3) 14
    (32.9) 11
    (25.4) 21
    (48.0) 15
    (35.5) 9
    (26.3) 13
    (37.0) 12

    (per 100,000) 159
    (384.0) 177
    (460.7) 180
    (475.7) 159
    (436.4) 203
    (483.5) 211
    (496.5) 241
    (557.2) 253
    (578.2) 205
    (484.5) 236
    (690.9) 268
    (762.3) 252

    (per 100,000) 161
    (388.9) 111
    (288.9) 141
    (372.6) 168
    (461.1) 189
    (450.2) 214
    (503.6) 162
    (374.5) 153
    (349.7) 132
    (312.0) 146
    (427.5) 128
    (364.1) 144

    (per 100,000) 785
    (1,896.0) 787
    (2,048.6) 668
    (1,765.3) 682
    (1,871.9) 816
    (1,943.5) 855
    (2,011.9) 952
    (2,201.0) 1,113
    (2,543.8) 1,228
    (2,902.3) 1,163
    (3,405.0) 1,029
    (2,927.0) 938

    (per 100,000) 1,346
    (3,251.0) 1,514
    (3,941.0) 1,497
    (3,956.1) 1,364
    (3,743.8) 1,533
    (3,651.2) 1,488
    (3,501.4) 1,722
    (3,981.2) 1,827
    (4,175.7) 1,955
    (4,620.5) 1,799
    (5,267.0) 2,018
    (5,740.3) 2,221

    Auto thefts
    (per 100,000) 376
    (908.1) 504
    (1,311.9) 437
    (1,154.9) 347
    (952.4) 454
    (1,081.3) 363
    (854.2) 470
    (1,086.6) 437
    (998.8) 461
    (1,089.6) 575
    (1,683.5) 772
    (2,196.0) 746

    (per 100,000) N/A N/A 11
    (29.1) 1
    (2.7) N/A N/A N/A N/A 6
    (14.2) 1
    (2.9) 3
    (8.5) N/A
    City-data.com crime index (higher means more crime, U.S. average = 291.7) 600.6 656.9 644.0 635.8 664.5 654.3 691.2 735.1 745.2 916.2 1010.8

    The 2012 year posted in East Point was 1010.8 that is crazy high, not only bad.

    In 2012 Newburgh had 735.7 .

  23. Wow! This is STILL such an incredibly important article. I wanted to buy a home near the Beltline or a MARTA station in town. My old stomping grounds of Capital View and West End are now ridiculously expensive. What a difference a year makes! Just the other day, people thought I was “brave” for living off of Metropolitan.

    Now, I am looking in to East Point. I am SO DOWN to live in a place that isn’t getting swept up by gentrification. I am deeply interested in an affordable, diverse city that doesn’t have to push people out to make room for change. It seeeeems like that is what is happening (or at least the gentrification isn’t as rampant and fast as it has been in Atlanta). What are you thoughts?

    1. Thanks for your comment! I don’t see much chance that East Point will go all gentrified on everybody’s ass. The city is large enough to absorb a fair number of new residents without losing either its character or its affordable housing stock. And this gets down to the brass tacks. Gentrification is a difficult animal. It brings a much needed injection of tax base and economic activity to neighborhoods at the same time that it erodes affordable housing stock. It can also bring a whole truckload of negatives to a city–quick and dirty McMansion neighborhoods; tear downs of historic buildings; the vanishing of affordable housing stock; and the insufferable boutiques and upper-crust eateries meant to serve gentrifiers and nobody else.

      I don’t claim to be a seer, but it strikes me that such a sad scene is not in East Point’s (at least immediate) future. Sure, the housing market is back on its feet and we are seeing an influx of some well-heeled (or at least heeled) homebuyers. But there are signs that the city takes its diverse population seriously. One of the most positive developments of late has been the City’s devotion to the East Point Farmers’ Market. It is now held every Wednesday evening in downtown. For those of us who are eager to eat as many Jerusalem artichokes, Russian Kale, and fresh eggs as possible, this is fantastic. And at least one of the food vendors there accepts EBT. Sure we don’t have as many stalls sporting hipster farmers as the über-gentrified Grant Park Farmers’ Market, but the lineups for fresh fruits and vegetables (especially at the vendor that accepts EBT) gives the lie to those who claim that South-side dwellers will eat only Krispy Kreme and McDonalds. If we keep getting positive developments like that, then even an influx of new settlers won’t erode the city’s diversity.

  24. It seems to me that while this article and these posts address some bad methodologies and incentives of the motovo article, that the underlying essence of the article has not been challenged: that it is more likely that as an average resident of EP you are statistically more likely to be involved in both violent and property crimes based on the data presented than in most other “Suburbs”. I think picking at the word suburb versus city is splitting hairs, and is not relevant to the point. Presumably the data presented was equally flawed for all areas that were compared, so therefore pointing out the flaws that apply to all of those cities equally is also moot.

    Maybe the city is on the right path, but rapes are rapes, murders are murders, and theft is theft, and during those years, they did happen, according to the FBI. Academic language cannot undo that, no matter how eloquently presented. To try to mask that idea is doing injustice towards those who look to the area as their next home. They need the information to make critical decisions in their lives.

    But, I think it’s healthier to admit that EP on-the-whole is more prone to both types of crime than most cities that were given the equal analysis. This does not mean that every neighborhood is dangerous, or that the city as a whole is not getting better. From what I gather, several neighborhoods in EP are among some of the nicest areas in the ATL area to live, with great sense of community if nothing else out of survival instinct. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to travel through some very undesirable areas to get there on a daily basis, though. Tit for tat, you watch my back, I watch yours. And it should not be overlooked. The same attitude exists in other good areas such as Decatur (where I live), though with considerably less urgency.

    I did my own analysis of the data available on EP’s PD website which is from the FBI when considering to move to the area or not, because the City does not make it easy to view over time. http://www.eastpointcity.org/index.aspx?NID=87

    Obviously, there’s a lot of crime in the city as a whole. Few refute that.

    I compared data year over year for the first five months (Jan to May) because we are only in May of 2016. From 2014 to 2015, during these five months Year over Year overall crimes went down nearly 10%, and then from 2015 to 2016, overall crimes dropped another ~15%. This is largely attributed to a significant drop in property crimes. This was quite encouraging as a prospective new home buyer. Unfortunately, On the other hand, violent crimes did not see the same drop. In fact, in 2016, EP has as many murders as in 2014 and 2015 combined during the first five months of the year. (1, 4, and 5, respectively iirc)

    Maybe the reporting method has changed, or maybe property crime has just dropped. But as far as violent crimes, the city of East Point has a lot.

    I reject the “naked racism” idea in general, because I think the term is grossly overused in today’s society. I instead turn to socio-economics:

    I believe that – much more than racial driven fear – most people in today’s society have an at least somewhat legitimate fear of those on the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, because those people are often desperate and sadly statistically more likely to cause crimes. We don’t often see people in professional occupations ripping off a 7/11, for example. Also, car insurance companies will charge you higher insurance when you move to less affluent neighborhoods, and it’s for a reason. When making life changing decisions that can affect your future, all things are considered. Unfortunately, most of the black community in Atlanta falls under this socio-economic category. This is for many reasons, but it is what it is and until the socio-economic conditions of East Point change, then the crime will remain. How it changes can be many ways, but simply put, moving people of higher economic classes into the area is one of the “Tried and true” methods that most certainly has worked historically. Combined with local community efforts, this will certainly improve the socio-economic conditions of the city, and therefore reduce the perception of danger in EP.

    To be clear, I do not think it fair to blankly label those who would avoid areas that are predominately black, and almost entirely poor as “racists” for simply following their survival instincts in trying to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Sure, race may be a motive for some, but not everyone, and to label everyone as such is just as bad as what the author is describing has been done to EP.

    1. I entirely refute the basic essence of Movoto’s article. No one has stopped to consider what the relevant aggregate ought to be for computing crime statistics, or done a serious study of crime distribution in EP and the metropolitan region. Whoever writes for Movoto does not care to do so, and I refuse to take casual glances at statistics without proper context seriously.

      As far as race goes, I think you make a very basic error. You assume that racism must be intentional. Many times it is not. It is most usually encased in the ignorance born of daily experience. If you are “white” and live in a “white” neighborhood where everyone looks like you and you watch the news and see all the bad stories about “those” people who live south of I-20, then you might naturally assume when you read an article like Movoto’s, that this is what life must be like for people there and that you should never ever visit there. That is racism rooted in ignorance, not in intention. We are all likely guilty of it in some way, as none of us has (or can have) perfect information. How it is deployed is how we judge whether it was done with racist intent, racist effect, or both.

      To be clear, I never blankly (blanketly?) labeled anyone who “avoids areas that are predominantly black” as racist (such people are not my concern, although I would be rather suspicious of anyone who announced that they avoided predominantly black areas for the sake of their children…). I never called the people at Movoto racist. I seriously doubt that anyone writing for Movoto believes that black people are inherently inferior to white people, or are inherently more violent than white people (although MANY of the people who enthusiastically commented on Movoto’s article were, and explicitly so). But the myths that allow socio-economic poverty to be sustained can be racist, and it is not playing a race card to point them out. The fact that Movoto perpetuates the myths that it did is, sadly, perpetuating racism.

  25. I have been a resident of East Point (Jefferson Park) for the past 6 years, and while I feel safe in regards crime in the neighborhood, I feel racism is rampant. I am an African American male in my late 40s and during my first 2 years of residency in Jefferson Park, I walked the neighborhood and picked up trash as a way of showing pride and support for the “community” in which I live. I was even told by a couple of residents that my efforts inspired them to do the same. However, I quickly noticed that whenever I ventured out with my plastic bag and gloves to pick up trash, I was always approached by East Point Police. Initially I felt as though my early morning walks merely corresponded with daily police patrols of the neighborhood so I thought nothing of it. However, one morning while picking up a crushed sprite can and empty Gatorade bottle from the curb in front of a resident on Jefferson Ave, I was met by a young white woman who seemed to be grateful for my efforts. She smiled, thanked me, waved at me and then preceded to go back inside her residence. A few minutes later, I was approached by an East Point Police Officer asking me if I lived in the area. I told him my address ( a Jefferson Park address) and told him that I was merely making an effort to make sure that the neighborhood I live in was free of trash. He smiled and confided in me that a young lady called East Point Police and reported that a suspicious Black man was in front of her house picking up trash as a way of concealing the fact that I was actually casing houses to rob them. Huh???? Yes, the same lady that seemed grateful for my efforts to clean up trash in the neighborhood only saw a suspicious Black man bent on burglarizing her house.
    Well it’s 4 years later, and one would think by now I would be familiar to the residents of Jefferson Park as I often wave and greet other residents while on my daily walks; however I am still approached by East Point Police who NOW merely wave and sometimes smile at me while passing. I recently stopped an East Point Police officer and asked if he was merely on patrol or answering a call. Again, the Officer confided in me that my description was given to East Point Police by a Jefferson Park residence, stating that I I was regarded as suspicious for merely walking in the neighborhood in which I live. Hmmmmmm.. I guess I’m not a white woman pushing a stroller or a white man jogging, so I warrant suspicion. While Jefferson Park and the East Point City Center has many amenities, it seems that in some neighborhoods, all are NOT welcomed to them. Btw I don’t own a “hoodie”, where my pants hanging down and maintain a clean shaved neat appearance, so what else could it be?

  26. I was driving back from the ATL airport, I pulled off at East Point to get gas, easy exit on and off the highway.Thank God I locked my doors while pumping gas because someone tried to open the back door of my car while I was watching the gas pump and finishing up my transaction. Who knows what the motive was, either grab and go or jack my car, this was in broad daylight, people that saw this happen starting yelling at the person and chased the get away car as it sped off. Thank you to the bystanders who defended me.

  27. Thank you for your article. It was enlightening as I plan to visit East Point this weekend and heard the rumors that it was too dangerous for 5 white chicks from the actual suburbs.

    1. Glad to be of service. East Point is like any other city–there are lots of good parts and also places you just don’t go. If you are headed down into the Tri-Cities area, I highly recommend looking up Arches Brewery (in neighboring Hapeville) and visiting the tasting room.

  28. Your article seems proud and cynical. You didn’t live in East Point in the late 70’s, when it was fearful to work at Greenbriar Mall and drive home at night, because it was common to be bumped from the rear in your car at a stop sign in order to make you get out and subsequently get robbed or molested, did you? I did. Or, work at a store in Greenbriar Mall that was trying to have a successful business only to have your merchandise stolen out from under your nose on a daily basis, did you? I did. It is all very politically correct for you to criticize white flight, when you are not the one who has to lose your property value and investment after years of hard work to get what you have. White flight was largely due to the crime that unfortunately accompanied the HUD backed homes, not because people didn’t like people with more melanin in their skin. There is no excuse for crime, even in the midst of poverty, and especially when you have been given a helping hand out of poverty! The newcomers to the neighborhood in the 70s should have been thankful for what there predecessors did to earn them a chance to fair housing, good school zones, and a home mortgage, so why did the crime have to accompany that? That being said, I happen to like diversity, and love all Americans, so am considering moving back to East Point after having lived in Alabama the past 21 years. Your article was interesting and gives me some hope that it is indeed a stable community. I will check it out.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is true I did not live in East Point in the 1970s. (I was living on a cattle ranch in Arizona during that lime-green decade.) It is also true that the hollowing out of America’s urban core had multiple and complex causes. Perhaps we could agree that what I describe as White Flight largely happened before the 1970s and that its victims were not only black people, but also white people who stayed within their communities and found their life’s savings dissipating before their eyes. My beef is not with any prior resident of East Point. It’s with the Movoto goons. Definitely check out East Point. The Farmers Market is downtown every Wednesday, 4-7 p.m. It’s worth a stop.

      1. The issue is a lot deeper than crime “accompany” movement of people. White flight is actually deeper than people with little/no melanin moving away from people who have an abundance of it.

        It’s no secret that white bodies in this country have higher value. East Point and many other areas of Atlanta and around the country are good examples of that idea. Now that East Point is gaining a substantial amount of white bodies, the price tag of homes are going through the roof. Bad schools and all… It does not matter. The West End is booming.

        White flight was created by the system to get people into newer more expensive housing and to create tax bases in areas where there was none. When white folks left the business followed. Just like when white folks decided to move back into the city or closer to the city, businesses are following. It always starts with housing and then everything else comes. You must first occupy the space before commerce can take place.

        Crime is inevitable… Even more for those in poverty. Understanding why certain crime happens takes some studying. I always tell people to take a look at whats happening now in rural and suburban areas/spaces. Places with high white populations. The drug epidemic is crazy but it is understandable if you actually just take a look at the inner city black communities of the past. People have lost jobs (Because corporations decided to move or take business overseas), which turns into a loss of income, which then leads to depression and pain, which then leads to them dealing with depression and pain through drug usage, which then leads to committing crimes to feed the new habit, which then leads to opportunist taking advantage of the pain (drug dealers), which then leads to war over who is going to profit off of these people in pain (gangs and gun crime).

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