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‘Ghetto Tracker’ App That Helps Rich Avoid Poor Receives Backlash

Creator of GhettoTracker.com Surprised by All the “Negative Baggage”

National ghetto tracker App

National ghetto tracker App

In less than 24 hours, a new app tactfully titled Ghetto Tracker–a service seeking to help people identify safe areas in unfamiliar cities–has already garnered enough backlash to prompt an immediate name change to Good Part of Town.

However, the PR move may not do much to alter the public’s reception of the app, which critics are slamming as a racist, classist app for helping the rich to avoid the poor.

The app functions by allowing locals to rate the safety of different parts of a given area. According to The Week, the original launch of the page featured a white family of four smiling alongside the app’s promise to show users “which parts of town are safe and which ones are ghetto, or unsafe.”

In addition to the name change, all mention of the word “ghetto” has been removed from the site. The site now features an ethnically diverse family on its homepage.

In an email sent to Gawker, the app’s team said it changed the name in response to emails from a woman whose family had been contained in an actual World War II ghetto and one from a man who grew up in a struggling area and went on to graduate from college and overcome his upbringing.

“I can’t be held responsible for the assumptions people may make in regards to factors like race and income,” the letter to Gawker continued. “I’ve seen comments on blogs and in twitter that are trying to say this is encouraging racism or social stratification and that was never our intention.”

But critics have pointed out the app’s adverse effects on the community, regardless of the app’s intentions.

“It’s pretty detrimental to society when we reinforce the idea that poor or crime-heavy areas are places to be categorically avoided or shamed,” David Holmes wrote on PandoDaily. “As if to assume that every person who lives in an area with comparatively high crime or poverty is a criminal, or that these areas are devoid of culture or positivity.”

UPDATE: Good Part of Town (née GhettoTracker) has been taken down. All that’s left is a message that says: “This site is gone. It’s not worth the trouble.”

Here’s the full email from the creator:

Hi,

As you may have noticed, we’ve changed the name of the website because it was detracting from the serious purpose the site was meant to serve, which is to help people who are unfamiliar with a particular area to stay safe.

I am the creator of the site and I haven’t worked on anything like this in the past. I’d rather not have my name published since some people have given borderline threatening responses to the site. I am 30 something and based in Tallahassee, Florida.

This was originally seriously developed as a travel tool and the name “Ghetto Tracker” was meant to be something that people would remember. Well, it worked, but unfortunately, it appears to have brought a lot of negative baggage along with it. I expected some flack, but I received 2 emails in particular that made me want to change the name to something less offensive. One woman had family who was relegated to an actual ghetto in WWII and another email was from a man who grew up in a bad area who ended up graduating from Rutgers and overcoming his upbringing. They were both very heartfelt, well thought out emails and I truly felt bad about stirring up such negative emotions in these people. I have seen a lot of people making noise about the name on twitter, but these 2 people were different. So, in order to get back to the original purpose, I decided to ditch the failed attempt at humor and go with a more mainstream name. I also personally replied to these people letting them know that their comments are what made the difference and that I appreciate them taking the time to share their stories with me.

The only investment I have is the cost of the site and hosting, which are both minimal. I truly want people to use this site as it was intended because I like to travel and I will be using the site myself before visiting a new city. To me, that alone is worth the investment. If more people can benefit from this service, that’s even better.

The information, or ratings, come from people who are familiar with the area. As with every other rating system, like Google’s ratings, we rely on people being honest. The site was also programmed to anonymously track information about each rating so we can analyze the ratings to look for people trying to game the system or add fake ratings.

I am not concerned about racial implications between good areas and bad areas. If a certain part of town has a lot of crime and is considered a bad area, I can’t be held responsible for the assumptions people may make in regards to factors like race and income. I’ve seen comments on blogs and in twitter that are trying to say this is encouraging racism or social stratification and that was never our intention. The ideas was to make it social, as if you were asking a friend, “Hey, I’m going to be visiting {your city} and thinking of staying at {some hotel}, is that a good area?”.

I’ve honestly never heard of Nextdoor until you mentioned it so I had to Google it; I wouldn’t consider us as being very similar. I don’t want to make a social network. I just want people to see our site and, hopefully, offer their opinion on a few areas they know to be safe, unsafe, or anything in between. By doing this, they can help many people who they may never meet or socialize with. It’s a way of helping people on a large scale with very little effort. Speaking of other apps, a friend sent me a link to an iPhone app called “Ghetto Tracker” and I am not associated with that at all. At the time I purchased my domain, I didn’t see anything else out there with this name.

This is not a for-profit site. Since it went viral, it crashed my cheap little hosting so I put up some Google ads to help offset server costs (and the ads aren’t even coming close to paying hosting fees). Other than that, the site will always be 100% free to use and, if necessary, I’ll look into non-intrusive ads to help offset hosting costs. There will never be pop-ups or ugly ads all over the place; I love browsing the web and checking out new sites just as much as the next guy and I hate sites that are covered with ads. I just need to cover hosting and I’ll be good.

Above all else, I hope this can be viewed as a lesson to people who are thinking of starting a new website. I have been portrayed as a racist all over the internet just because of a domain name and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I also realize the site wouldn’t have gotten as much attention as it did and you wouldn’t be writing me if I hadn’t named it “Ghetto Tracker”. The name was not a publicity stunt, I honestly thought it would be a fun site for people to use. Since I have been proven wrong, I have changed the branding and, hopefully, people will still use the site because the good intentions are still there.

If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

Thank you

Stay safe,
The Good Part of Town Team,
http://goodpartoftown.com

-HuffingtonPost

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