#DataSmart News: Public Safety

By Data-Smart City Solutions • April 24, 2017

Our #DataSmart News series curates relevant news from our #ThisWeekInData posts for updates on different policy areas and civic data topics.

March 29, 2017: How Stockton Is Using Predictive Policing to Thwart Violent Gun Crimes

Route Fifty wrote about the use of predictive policing to combat violent gun crimes in Stockton, CA. In 2014, the city launched a model that analyzes data on non-domestic violence-related gun crimes to identify trends and flag forecast zones where incidents are likely to occur. The police department began deploying resources to these zones in increasing numbers, and preliminary numbers for March through May 2016 shows 40 to 60 percent month-to-month decreases in non-domestic gun violence-related crimes in forecast zones.

March 7, 2017: Philadelphia Lays Out Data-Driven Plan for Eliminating Traffic Deaths

Next City examined Philadelphia’s Vision Zero Plan, a data-driven campaign to eliminate traffic deaths that has also been adopted in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The city’s blueprint calls for a data-gathering effort to assess high injury networks and dangerous behaviors in order to target investment. The program also seeks to combat inequities in traffic fatalities, prioritizing places in greatest need of traffic safety improvements, particularly low-income neighborhoods.

March 6, 2017: How to Upgrade Judges with Machine Learning

The MIT Technology Review reported on a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research in which economists and computer scientists trained an algorithm to predict whether defendants are a flight risk based on their rap sheet and court records. Using data from hundreds of thousands of New York City cases, the algorithm is able to better predict what defendants will do after release than judges. The project’s researchers estimate that the algorithm could cut crime by defendants awaiting trial by as much as 25 percent without changing the number of people waiting in jail or reduce the jail population awaiting trial by 40 percent while leaving the crime rate unchanged.

March 6, 2017: Can Algorithms Predict House Fires?

Here on Data-Smart, Jonathon Jay profiled cities’ use of algorithms to predict house fires and conducted his own analysis to rank every address in Baton Rouge, LA according to fire risk. Cities have taken a number of steps to better predict and prevent fires, including updating their lists of commercial properties and tracking how data like building size, condition, location, and age have contributed to past fires. The most successful of these efforts was Atlanta’s Firebird model, which successfully predicted 71% of fires and found that variables reflecting the number of occupants were the strongest predictors.

February 21, 2017: Reducing incarceration with technology

GCN discussed the decision of twenty new jurisdictions to join the Safety and Justice Challenge, an initiative to reduce over-incarceration and address racial and ethnic justice disparities through criminal justice reform. The challenge is a $100 million initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and seeks to tackle issues including gender-responsive risk and needs assessment, culture-based case management, and recidivism reduction. Many of the initiatives use technology to reduce jail use and reduce racial and ethnic disparities, like an automated notification system to prevent failure-to-appear warrants and arrests in Durham County, N.C.

February 10th, 2017: How Cities Can Take Vision Zero to the Next Level in 2017

Next City highlighted a brief from the Prevention Institute that discusses the need for Vision Zero—the international initiative to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries— to prioritize traffic fatality inequities. Inadequate public investment in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color correlates with disproportionate rates of traffic collisions, underscoring the need to rethink governments’ allocation of resources. This project requires breaking down the data to understand disparities across communities and then engaging these communities to get a sense of what interventions may be the best fit.

February 9th, 2017: Troopers Use ‘Big Data’ to Predict Crash Sites

Route Fifty wrote about highway patrols’ use of big data to predict where serious traffic accidents are likely to occur to try to prevent them. Tennessee has a program in place that merges data on every crash report in the state, weather conditions, special events, and traffic enforcement citations to produce a map displaying the likelihood of a serious crash or fatality within 6-by-7-mile areas in four-hour increments every day. Not only can troopers access this map in their cars, but supervisors use this data to create monthly enforcement plans, leading to a 33 percent decrease in response times between 2012 and 2016 and a 3 percent decrease in traffic fatalities from 2013 to 2015.

January 30th, 2017: The Governance Lab at NYU Tandon Launches a Network to Connect Criminal Justice Community for Data-Driven Reform

The Governance Lab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering announced the launch of the Data Justice Network, a website fostering peer-to-peer learning among criminal justice practitioners and policymakers. On the platform, users can search for colleagues with relevant experience as well as ask and answer questions about using data to reduce incarceration and crime. The Governance Lab hopes that the website will galvanize better data collection and sharing practices in city governments.

January 12, 2017: Syracuse firefighters to get smoke detectors into high-risk homes

Syracuse.com detailed a new initiative in Syracuse to predict those residents in greatest need of smoke detectors and install detectors in their homes. The city borrowed the idea from a similar program in New Orleans, which used data on age, income, and address to predict those homes at greatest risk. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s community and housing surveys, Syracuse uncovered that both the oldest and youngest residents were most at risk of fire fatalities, and that renters were less likely to have smoke detectors than homeowners.

January 3, 2017: Mount Rainier to Get New Digital-Warning System for Massive Mudflows

GovTech reported on an initiative of Pierce County, WA and the U.S. Geological Survey to upgrade the mudflow detection technology for Mount Rainier. Volcanic mudflows, created by landslides or melting snow and ice during eruptions, are considered the greatest hazard of Mount Rainier. The upgrade will include a transition from outdated analog equipment to digital, which will reduce the time from the first detection of mudflows to notification of citizens. These improvements will make the system more predictive, speeding up evacuation times.

December 21, 2016: Predicting power outages from soil moisture data

GCN examined a new predictive model that uses wind and soil moisture data to predict where electrical outages are likely to occur during major storms. Fallen or broken trees are the primary causes of power outages, and trees are much more likely to be blown over in moist soil or break under dry conditions. Using data from NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite, a team of scientists predicted power outages from Hurricane Matthew with 91 percent accuracy, enabling better-targeted intervention.

December 13, 2016: Cities Open Animal Services Data to Help Keep Stray Dogs and Cats Off the Street

GovTech discussed the addition of animal service metrics to city open data portals in Dallas, Louisville, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade County, and Aurora, CO. This data allows citizens to track how many calls come into animal control, why animals come in, and what happens to those animals. Using this data, cities have been able to target areas with greater concentrations of stray animals and some residents have created mobile apps that help people adopt a pet or find a lost pet.

December 5, 2016: Proposal would codify use of remote heat sensors in city apartments

Politico detailed the plans of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Councilman Ritchie Torres to codify the use of remote heat sensors into New York City’s housing regulations in order to monitor landlords’ provision of heat to residents. The legislation would leverage the technology of Heat Seek, a company that won the city’s Big Apps technology competition with its temperature sensors that can transmit heating data to integrate with 311 complaints. Heat Seek has installed sensors in 57 buildings and has been sharing data with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, leading to 12 lawsuits by tenants and eight positive settlements.

November 28, 2016: Embracing Technology and Changing the Culture at the NYPD

On Data-Smart, Laura Adler wrote an article highlighting the NYPD’s outreach efforts to foster respect between officers and local communities. Adler draws from a paper she co-wrote with Harvard Law School Professor Susan Crawford, which details the NYPD’s Neighborhood Coordination Officer (NCO) program — an initiative that requires officers to spend time “off radio” building relationships in local communities. The paper also discusses the NYPD’s increased presence on social media and efforts to improve its technology infrastructure.

November 23, 2016: Connected Vehicle Tech Could Ease Routes for First Responders

GovTech featured a new application developed by HAAS (Heedful Audio Alert System) Alert that alerts drivers to the presence of approaching emergency vehicles in real time using V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) notifications. Grand Rapids, MI and Palo Alto, CA have partnered with HAAS to equip emergency vehicles with the app, which not only sends push notifications to drivers and cyclists, but also offers capabilities like live fleet management tools and response rate data. The cities hope that the app will save lives and also help them reduce the tens of millions of dollars they pay in emergency vehicle collision repairs and lawsuits each year.

November 15, 2016: Indiana Launches Predictive Crash Tool for Citizens, First Responders

GovTech discussed Indiana’s new predictive crash tool, which uses data to help drivers and first responders predict and avoid traffic accidents. The tool, co-created by the Indiana State Police and the Management and Performance Hub, has collected data from over two million crashes back to 2004 and can estimate the probability of accidents across the state using information on weather, traffic, road conditions, time of day, historical frequency of crashes, and census data.

November 1, 2016: How GIS and Drones Have Aided Hurricane Matthew Recovery Work

Route Fifty wrote about South Carolina’s use of GIS data and drones in the Hurricane Matthew recovery effort. Using mapping software Drone2Map, Horry County was able to quickly collect and send damage data to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which allowed for speedier access to FEMA funds. The City of North Charleston had ArcGIS and Collector for ArcGIS up and running before the storm with map layers to keep the public informed of police and fire updates and also opened an online Citizen Report to allow residents to report damage. As a result of the city’s efforts, most damage assessment points were collected and mapped within two days of the storm.

October 14, 2016: Breaking Down Data Silos Would Add Tremendous Value, Disrupt Policing as We Know It

U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil said he believes future criminal justice systems could be greatly improved by collaboration and data sharing. During the White House Frontiers Conference, Patil was joined on a panel by Rayid Ghani, Director of Data Science and Public Policy at the University of Chicago and Knoxville, Tennessee Police Chief David Rausch, who outlined the ways in which collaboration between law enforcement, public health officials, and data scientists can create an inclusive future justice system, free of data siloes. Read details about what the panel discussed at GovTech.

October 3, 2016: Boston Launches App-Based Competition To Encourage Safe Driving

The city of Boston launched a smartphone app challenge, “Boston’s Safest Driver,” in an effort to reduce vehicle crashes and encourage safe driving. The app provides feedback based on five metrics: speed, acceleration, braking, cornering, and phone distraction. The city also partnered with the Arbella Insurance Foundation to incentivize participation by offering more than $9,000 in prizes, which will be awarded every week during the competition.

September 29, 2016: Baton Rouge, La., Innovates with GIS Through Flooding Aftermath

In the wake of severe flooding this summer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the city partnered with GIS mapping firm Esri to launch a series of apps designed to help cities track flooding through nearly real-time mapping of flood zones, a catalog of open businesses for residents to navigate, and a visualizer of before and after scenes. Read about the details and how the apps can be applied to other cities on GovTech.

September 6, 2016: Why We Need to Move Away From Jailing the Mentally Ill

Here on Data-Smart, Jane Wiseman and Stephen Goldsmith wrote about the need to end the practice of jailing the mentally ill and instead divert them to mental health treatment. Wiseman and Goldsmith highlight the human and fiscal costs of incarcerating mentally ill inmates. In the article, which originally appeared on Goldsmith’s Better Faster Cheaper blog, they call for public officials to take charge, innovate, and collaborate to solve this costly social problem.

September 3, 2015: California Launches Data-Driven OpenJustice Dashboard

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced the launch of a state OpenJustice portal, making available to the public scores of criminal justice data. The goal of the program is to encourage government accountability, improve public safety, and increase policy effectiveness. Read about the release on GovTech.

August 31, 2016: Using data to track police response to sexual assault

Though rape and sexual assault cases contain private, often protected, information, the Sunlight Foundation shares strategies for how existing public datasets can be used to hold the local police accountable for poor investigative practices and encourage better policing. The Uniform Crime Report is one of the most comprehensive crime databases, with information collected from all US law enforcement agencies on crime that includes the number of rape allegations a local agency receives. One can also submit an open records request for public statistics from the police department on the proportion of open cases to the number reported, or the number of untested rape kits. The author hopes this approach, focused on publicly-accessible data, can empower citizens or organizations to assess gender bias in policing and promote accountability.

August 23, 2016: Newark Police unveil interactive map for reporting traffic concerns

The Newark Post described the Newark Police Department’s new crowdsourced approach to traffic violations. The department has begun using an interactive online map, powered by Esri’s ArcGIS platform, where users can submit complaints about speeding, ignored stop signs, or unsafe intersections at specific locations. Residents can vote on the submitted concerns, and the highest priority ones are sent to the Newark Police for further enforcement. The map benefits both residents and the police: residents can easily view problems in their neighborhoods, and the police can streamline resident feedback.

August 19, 2016: Mapping 'Pre-Crime' in Rio

CityLab described CrimeRadar, a new map-based crime tracking tool designed by the Igarapé Institute, a Rio-based think tank. CrimeRadar will use open data to track and display crimes across Rio de Janeiro; the tool will also use machine learning and predictive analysis to predict and map future crime trends, becoming the first publicly-available tool to do so. The creators hope CrimeRadar will lead to data-driven conversations about crime in Rio, combatting the “sensationalist rhetoric” currently present.

August 3, 2016: Data Analytics Helps Bexar County, Texas, Reduce Inmate Population, Save Millions

GovTech wrote about how Bexar County, Texas used data analytics to reduce its prison population. In 2009, Bexar County’s jail was over capacity; instead of building a new jail to accommodate more prisoners, they reexamined their own processes and integrated data analytics to better track prisoners and speed up court procedures. The easy-to-use dashboards allow court clerks and county officials to manage cases, and identify inmates who are ready for jail courts or state transfers, allowing them to instantly find information that would’ve taken hours previously. The new system has led to a 25% reduction in prisoners and has saved the county millions.

July 28, 2016: Boston Equips Firefighters with Hazard Data

Here on Data-Smart, Katherine Hillenbrand wrote about Boston’s new data-driven approach to fires. Although governments collect a wide variety of information about each building in a city, most firefighters don’t have access to this data, leading to unnecessary exposure to hazards and an inability to make data-informed decisions about fighting fires. Boston’s Citywide Analytics Team took on the challenge of this information gap last year. The result: the Building Intelligence System, a web app that integrates seven city data sources to provide a streamlined view of individual buildings in Boston. Firefighters and dispatchers can now easily view permitting, inspection, code violation, and hazard data, allowing them to make better decisions and improve firefighter safety.

July 19, 2016: Using #CivicTech to Stop Fires in Vacant Properties

Living Cities blogged about the Louisville City Accelerator team’s process for finding a civic tech solution for preventing fires in vacant and abandoned properties. A collaboration between the Louisville Fire Department, the Department of Community Services and the Office of Performance Improvement and Innovation analyzed the city’s fire data and identified that low-income neighborhoods were most at-risk. They then organized a civic hackathon to find the best design for a low-cost wireless smoke detector.

July 17, 2016: How Big Data Is Helping the NYPD Solve Crimes Faster

Fortune explored how big data and “situational awareness” tools are helping improve city operations, focusing on public safety. The article cites Chicago, a collection of Canadian government agencies, and the NYPD as stellar examples of how situational awareness can improve the public sector, empowering government employees to make better informed decisions by leveraging available data.

June 9, 2016: Predicting Fire Risk: From New Orleans to a Nationwide Tool

Here on Data-Smart, Katherine Hillenbrand wrote about New Orleans’s data-driven approach to fire safety. The New Orleans Fire Department and the city’s analytics team, the Office of Performance and Accountability, teamed up to build a map-based risk assessment model to prioritize free smoke alarm distribution to houses most at risk for fire. The model was expanded into a nationwide tool called Smoke Signals, which offers block-level risk assessment for 178 American cities and is available as an interactive map and downloadable CSV files. Cities can also upload their own historical fire incident data to improve the model for their area.

May 27, 2016: Chicago's Predictive Analytics for Shootings

Many private entities use data to try to predict outcomes and law enforcement agencies are increasingly applying this principle to crime prevention and reduction. The New York Times reported on the Chicago Police Department’s use of predictive analytics to determine who is most likely to shoot someone or be shot. A computer algorithm assigns residents scores based on factors like arrests, shootings and affiliations with gang members, which are then used to create a list of those most at risk. People highest on the list are warned that they are under heightened scrutiny and offered social services to mitigate their risk. Proponents of the list say it is meant to more efficiently focus on the small segment of the population driving the majority of the violence in the city. Critics are concerned about its potential encroachment on civil liberties and whether it is effective in preventing shootings.

May 20, 2016: Unanswered Criminal Justice Questions

The Marshall Project highlighted thirteen important questions about criminal justice that we still can’t answer. The unanswered questions, which range from the number of Americans with a criminal record to how often police stop drivers, stem from the lack of accountable and available data on criminal justice issues. The article cites the White House Police Data Initiative, the Center for Policing Equality, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics as organizations that have all helped to improve the availability of criminal justice data, but there is still a long way to go.

April 29, 2016: Manatee County, FL's Data-Driven 911 Call System

GovTech profiled Manatee County, FL’s data-driven upgrades to their 911 call system. The upgraded system better tracks call volume, time, and location, giving the county a more informed view of how to manage their resources. Based on the data, the county stationed emergency vehicles in new locations so they could respond more quickly to certain areas, and added extra paramedics during peak call times. The new system also allows operators to receive text messages, photos, and videos, which can be essential in emergency situations and can give responders a better idea of what to prepare for.

March 11, 2016: Crowdsourcing the NYPD Agenda

On our site, Steve Goldsmith examined how the NYPD effectively employed crowdsourcing to help set their agenda. They implemented IdeaScale, a platform through which residents can suggest improvements and comment or vote on others’ suggestions. The NYPD can then more effectively respond to residents’ concerns and enact measures that will improve the general quality of life, which in turn builds confidence from residents and makes them more likely to trust and cooperate with the NYPD in the future.

March 4, 2016: Lowering LA County's Juvenile Crime and Detention Rates with Predictive Analytics

Governing wrote about LA County’s attempts to use predictive analytics to lower juvenile crime and detention rates. The county used actuarial tools to screen children, identify those at highest risk for jail time, and then connect them to caseworkers and preventative social services. The original results are promising: none of the children who were identified and provided services received jail time, compared to 9% of the control group.

October 30, 2015: ShotSpotter and General Electric Partnership

General Electric (GE) announced a partnership with ShotSpotter, a company that uses sensors to detect and locate gunfire. The new effort will add ShotSpotter’s technology to GE’s smart streetlights to vastly increase their coverage area in participating cities.

October 23, 2015: The Multi-City Innovation Campaign's Location-Based Emergency Response

The Multi-City Innovation Campaign (MCIC), an effort started by Nashville, Raleigh, Boston, and Palo Alto and expanded to 25 cities in partnership with the National League of Cities, announced that two companies have been selected for pilot funding in participating cities. The cities voted for BlueLight, which enables location sharing with emergency responders, and Ride Report, which enables data collection for biking infrastructure planning. In the MCIC model, cities pool resources below procurement thresholds to enable them to collectively do business with new companies with innovative solutions to urban challenges.

September 4, 2015: Going Beyond Crime Reduction Data

A focus on crime reduction data has decreased the quality and effectiveness of community policing by damaging relationships between the police and the community. Relying on crime reduction stats alone misses the larger story about how crime is policed. Next City reported on a pilot program used by the Chicago Police Department that’s working to fix these problems. The engine of the RespectStat system is a new polling metric — the Police-Community Interaction (PCI) survey — that rates civilian encounters with police based on indicators such as an officer’s level of respect, helpfulness, and competence.

August 21, 2015: Emergency Management Software in New York

Every New York county will now have access to free universal emergency management software that will give local governments and state agencies one system in which to register and share incident reports and resource requests and other vital information in disaster-related situations.The new system will also update counties on local disasters and integrate telephone, radio, video and file sharing into one application, GCN reported.

August 14, 2015: Obama's Police Data Initiative

As part of Obama's Police Data Initiative, researchers and police are studying "predictive analytics" to improve existing officer early warning systems, Scientific American reported. The main challenge: it is difficult to say with certainty how well or even if these systems actually work.

July 31, 2015: The State and Future of Policy Body Cameras

Writing for CityLab, Kriston Capps gave the rundown on the current state and coming future of police body cameras. The public largely sees body cams as a tool for police transparency and accountability, not a Big Brother nightmare. Still, there are many issues to consider as more departments adopt them.

July 31, 2015: Police Body Camera Usage

Route Fifty reviewed a new, comprehensive report released by the D.C. Open Government Coalition that examines how municipalities are navigating state laws regarding police body camera use, as many law enforcement agencies attempt to boost transparency. According to the report, most states have either passed or are in various stages of debating policy body camera footage legislation, and most major U.S. cities have pilot programs testing the equipment.

May 29, 2015: White House Police Data Initiative Partners

Following the formal launch of the White House’s Police Data Initiative, the Sunlight Foundation released summaries of a preliminary gathering of partners in the Initiative that outline challenges and solutions across areas critical to law enforcement data collection, analysis, and release. And Code for America shared its Police Open Data Census--a collection of the police interaction data sets they’ve found so far--and encouraged others to contribute.

May 22, 2015: White House Police Data Initiative Launch

The White House wants open data to help local police forces, StateScoop reported. President Obama announced an initiative to use data to improve how community forces operate. The Police Data Initiative, born out of Obama’s task force on 21st century policing, will examine how open data and innovative technologies can improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they protect.

May 8, 2015: Oklahoma's Real-Time Crime Hotspot Tracking

News 9 reported Oklahoma metro police are using a real-time mapping system to track crime hotspots. Since the start of the program a year and a half ago, the Midwest City Police Department has seen a 25 percent drop in crime. Midwest City joins a growing number of cities using data to predict and preempt crime.

May 8, 2015: Strategies for Building Trust Between Communities and Law Enforcement

Here on Data-Smart City Solutions, Karina Baba examined strategies for building trust and legitimacy between local law enforcement and communities in U.S. cities, part of our series recapping insights from the March 2015 convening of the Project on Municipal Innovation Advisory Group.

May 1, 2015: Wilkes-Barre's Police Info-Sharing App

In a collaborative effort to encourage community-wide information sharing, The Wilkes-Barre and Wilkes-Barre Township police departments enrolled in a new info-sharing app that allows users to receive police alerts and report suspicious activity, the Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) reported.

April 24, 2015: Reducing 911 Super User Calls in Long Beach

Long Beach officials partnered with the civic tech group Code for America to create AddressIQ, a Web app that combines fire, police and business licensing data to reduce calls from 911 super-users, Government Technology magazine reported.

April 17, 2015: Improving Emergency Response with Data

Rescue workers, hospital staffers, and patients are using a growing number of apps to improve emergency response and to bring CPR trained citizens into the emergency response system, Pew Trusts’ Stateline blog reported.

April 10, 2015: Crime Data Aggregators

With crime data in high demand, crime data aggregator SpotCrime ranked 57 of the nation’s largest cities to evaluate the quality of crime data in their open data portals, Government Technology magazine reported.

April 3, 2015: New Orleans's Targeted Approach to Reducing Fire Fatalities

In New Orleans, city officials announced that they will use data from the city’s NOLAnalytics to take a targeted approach to reducing fire-related injuries and fatalities, Government Technology magazine reported.

March 30, 2015: ShotSpotter in New York City

New York City has become the latest major city to have its police department adopt ShotSpotter, a detection system that relies on sensors to identify the location of gunshots and then alert officers, the New York Times reported.

March 6, 2015: Identifying Fire-Prone Buildings in New York City

The New York City Fire Department is harnessing a tool called FireCast 2.0 to identify the most fire-prone buildings in the city and then target their prevention efforts accordingly, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

March 6, 2015: Transparency Within Stop-and-Frisk Police Departments

The Sunlight Foundation examined transparency among police departments that practice stop and frisk, looking at how available and accessible they make their collected stop and frisk data.

February 27, 2015: Prince George's County's Data-Driven Policing

Charles Chieppo examined “1828,” the Prince George’s County police department’s data-driven initiative aimed at slowing the spree of commercial robberies.

February 23, 2015: Smart Policing in Kansas City

Forbes profiled Kansas City’s smart policing program, which is analyzing data to identify high-risk individuals and help prevent crimes before they happen.