One thing the Internet has enabled in a huge way is the investigation of the neighborhood. Since we are placing an offer on a house we like, and we have learnt to not trust the Trulia crime map (it says our apartment is lowest crime, HA!)
Fortunately, there are many options. Since we are in San Jose, we can use the SJPD Crime Map website to see what activity is in your area. (I would bet my bottom dollar that most modern police forces have something similar). I trust it, because it seems to correlate well where we live.
It lists vehicle thefts, vehicle recoveries, robberies, burglaries, and even where registered sex offenders live (more on this later). You can get some detail on the disposition, and actions, as well as a macro view of the density of crime.
(Hint: I was astounded at how much crime happens in Sunnyvale, a "good" city…)
You also see some trends. Neighborhoods with higher housing prices (i.e. where the "richers" live) have a lot of burglary. Near public places you find more assaults. And so on.
Of course, there is another tool for tracking registered sex offenders. The "Megan's Law" website. Once you accept the disclaimer, you can search by city, address, zip code,county or even name. Looking up zip codes is an eye opener. Sweet zombie Jesus there are a lot of sex offenders. From child porn aficionados to "Lewd acts on a person under 14" (why 14 seems magic is something I just don't want to know), to rape and others.
There are a lot, I mean SHITLOADS of sex offenders. Even in affluent areas.
Well, the offer is in, and we are crossing our fingers. We will still go to open houses this weekend, as we know that the odds are so-so.