How can we incentivize the homeless to fight crime?

The Premise

The homeless are public residents that fall through the cracks in New York City, as they are deemed as a public nuisance. Despite New York’s active involvement to build better shelters, many still reside by the streets and live vagabond lives, depending on others through begging.

The social stigma is that these vagabonds are a threat to society – New Yorkers constantly fear for their lives as they walk past them on the streets, or are approached for money. How can we get the homeless to be more involved with society in a positive manner and pacify discrimination?


Design Question

Through our data exploration, we compared the crime rate density with the number of 311 calls of witnessed homeless people on the streets. We uncovered that not all vagabonds are directly involved with misconduct, so how can we use their assistance to fight crime instead?



1. Public Telephones and WIFI locations in NYC

2. Crime Map based on NYPD 7 Major Felony Incidents

3. 311 Service Requests from 2010 to Present (Focusing on Homeless)



Captured through NYC OpenData, on New York Police Department’s 7 Major Felony Incidents. Quarterly update of Seven Major Felonies at the incident level.


The Idea

After mapping out data on the density levels of both homeless and crime rates, we realize that these coincide with each other in close proximities. Telephone booths are scattered throughout Manhattan – which makes it easily accessible to anyone in induced crime areas. Through a collaboration with LinkNYC and utilizing public payphone booths, our proposal is to reward these vagabonds to report any suspicious activity through making public calls, in order to bring down the crime rate— as well as to help them earn an income through performing good deeds.


infographic data

A project by Kai Cheng, Geyao Zhang, and Ping

Built with CartoDB and NYC Open Data