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GPS units will automatically alert you when you enter into a different speed zone, but they do not alert you when you enter into a high crime area. It seems that this would be valuable information to know when driving in unfamiliar places so you can quickly exit the high crime area, or map a new route that goes around it before you enter into it.

From researching this today, I found out that crime mapping services currently exist because law enforcement agencies have been using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to keep track of high crime areas for many years now.

So, this made me wonder if there may be a legal reason why GPS units do not provide this kind of information to drivers. I did a few Google searches for a law that bars GPS manufacturers from providing crime mapping data to GPS units but I did not find any such law, yet I am still curious to know if such a law exists.

Is it against the law for a GPS unit to alert a driver of a high crime area?

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    It's not implemented because it wouldn't as useful as you assume it would be. The police systems you've mention are meant to help allocation of police resources, not determine risk to drivers. Which in any case comes almost entirely from other drivers. – Ross Ridge May 4 at 18:00
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    Crime statistics by geographical area is public information, and many realty websites show the data on the listing pages. Referencing that by GPS wouldn't make it illegal... – Ron Beyer May 4 at 19:43
  • @RonBeyer, that's good to know. Also, this wouldn't be something that someone would have to manually reference via their GPS unit's graphical interface, such as searching for a restaurant. Instead the GPS unit would automatically pull down this data whenever it accesses a satellite and then it would automatically warn the driver that he/she is entering a high crime area via an audible chime and/or a different screen color, similar to how a GPS unit warns you that you've entered a different speed zone. – user255577 May 4 at 20:35
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    @user255577 You're getting into app-design rather than law there. The "is it legal" part is answered below and is "yes", how you choose to implement something to use that is up to you. – Ron Beyer May 4 at 20:46
  • @RonBeyer, okay, I understand. – user255577 May 4 at 20:53
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Generally speaking, what isn't illegal by law is legal. It's possible for law enforcement agencies to share crime rates, maps, and their data, but within any laws regarding access and sharing of that data.

Such crime data may be publicly available, but that depends on local and state laws. The local or state agency would have to enter into a legal licensing agreement - if local and state laws allow such sharing - with the GPS company to provide the data, update it, and reasonably assure that it is accurate.

The more realistic reason GPS systems might choose to not show crime data may be public relations. If a GPS user lives in an area that has been objectively identified by data as having a higher than baseline crime rate, i.e. for carjackings, that user may not be very happy with that designation.

Worse, what happens to public relations when data errors show an area is wrongfully identified as high crime? What kinds of lawsuits could result? Real estate agents suing since bad data from a GPS unit soured the sale of a house?

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  • these are good points you've made. As far as public relations go, I would say that most people would value personal safety, and the personal safety of their loved ones, over a real estate agent in a high crime area not making a sale on any given day. Also, I suppose there would be some lawsuits but again the safety of drivers should be a higher consideration when determining whether this service should be added to GPS units. – user255577 May 4 at 18:46
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    That doesn't make any sense. A sense of personal safety is as much perception as is it objective reality. A white, middle class salesman has a completely different sense of what is safe than a African American, middle class salesman. And the salesmen are not going to sue the real estate agent, not the real estate sue them; the real estate agent will sue the GPS company. And: "the safety of drivers should be a higher consideration when determining whether this service should be added to GPS units" Says who? You? – BlueDogRanch May 4 at 19:36
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    One argument I guarantee will be used against this is that the use of the data is racist in nature, due to the perceived link between high crime areas and people of colour. – Moo May 4 at 22:07
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    Why a licence? What’s the IP? Location of crimes would appear to be facts and not subject to copyright. – Dale M May 4 at 22:10
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    If the GPS unit just says "high crime area", would that be vague enough that the real estate agent would lose the law suit? – PyRulez May 5 at 2:24

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