San Francisco Crime, Mapped in 3-D

A stunning set of maps from Doug McCune renders San Francisco crime as elevation.

A stunning set of maps from Doug McCune renders San Francisco crime as elevation. Land peaks and crests, according to the SFPD's 2009 incident data.

The stories told here aren't especially surprising. Certain crimes, like car theft and assault, are more or less evenly distributed across the city (yes, even in Pac Heights), whereas others, like drugs (see below), are confined to specific areas—making for a sort of mini mountain range in the poorer parts of town.

But as a concise guide to San Francisco, these maps beat anything Rand McNally prints. They ought to pass them out at the tourism bureau, so clueless out-of-towners know precisely which neighborhoods to avoid. Or, depending on their tastes, which to frequent.

That's the prostitution map. The smaller of the two peaks is part of the Tenderloin district—hence forth known as Mount Loin—and the larger peak is Shotwell Street, both of whose names suggest that hookers and whimsical happenstance walk the streets of San Francisco side by side.


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  • Marc Vlemmings

    Doug McCune's 3D crime maps aren't a new idea. British artist Abigail Reynolds made exactly the same maps for several cities in the UK and The Netherlands some years ago. Her project is called Mount Fear

    Marc Vlemmings

  • Meredith Obendorfer

    The SF Bike Coalition publishes a physical map that color coordinates streets with their grade percentage, so cyclists know which streets (ie, red-colored ones = over 18%) to stay away from and which are safe for even fixed gears (light peach or white colored ones = under 5%). see here -

    My guess is that the crime maps above are close to inversely related to the physical geography of SF (minus car theft, perhaps). As horrible as it sounds, my mom always said, bums don't like to push their carts uphill.

  • kent comfort

    Is the data used for this presentation in a standardized format and/or universally available for cities all over the nation? Or even the world? If so, this could be an extremely valuable service. There may be a federal repository of this kind of information. I would think there is a vast market for vital information that can be usefully absorbed with a mere glance.

  • Chris Reich

    In my opinion, this technology and the application of it could be a real thinking game changer.

    I'd like to see maps of where tax dollar are spent. Wouldn't it be interesting to see if money actually does go to dampen hot spots or high spots in this case. My guess is that it does not. Yup, crime costs money but do we devote proper resources in the proper places to reduce crime?

    I can see a million applications for this. Brilliant.

    By the way, this is also a very well written and presented piece. Thank you Suzanne!

    Chris Reich