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Big data drives City of Buffalo's operation Clean Sweep

Thor Olavsrud | Sept. 9, 2013
By layering data from 311 and 911 calls over Census data, unemployment data and other poverty indicators, Buffalo uses data analytics to identify its most challenged neighborhoods and more effectively deploy resources for everything from neighborhood beautification to combatting crime and reducing fire hazards.

"The use of big data in the public sector arena promises to be hugely disruptive; however, many agencies have not yet realized its potential," Constellation Research wrote in naming him a finalist. "By extracting insights derived from the data, the City of Buffalo is using a targeted data-driven approach to identifying neighborhoods most in need to direct the deployment of the appropriate resources. Pooling man power and in-kind services from federal, state and local government and community groups/non-profits, puts forward a new innovative model of an inter-department and inter-agency collaboration for cost-effective public sector service delivery."

With Big Data, Buffalo Expands Program As Economy Grew Tougher
At the beginning, Buffalo was performing seven to eight Clean Sweeps a year, Mestre says. And the locations for the Clean Sweeps were subjectively chosen. But as times got harder in 2007 and 2008 and resources dwindled, the city began expanding the program. Doing so required a fundamental change in methodology. It was no longer enough to choose neighborhoods for Clean Sweeps based on gut feelings.

In 2008, the city deployed its 311 Call and Resolution Center. The city began using data analysis of 311 and 911 calls, as well as other data such as poverty indicators in Census tracts, population density maps, unemployment data and more to identify its most challenged neighborhoods and prioritize deployment of resources to those neighborhoods.

"It's all about people, processes and technology," Mestre says. "We try to utilize that as best we can. Government can be and should be more responsive to citizens. Having a 311 call center is an integral part of that. So what do we do with the data that we have? People are calling and telling us about pot holes, stray dogs, loud noise. Aside from abating the particular issues, what does that data tell you? Well, where there's smoke, there's fire. We're able to map the data out and use that to coordinate our efforts."

How Buffalo Uses Big Data
The city collects verbal complaints to the 311 Call and Resolution Center, as well as 911 calls, and enters that data into its KANA LAGAN CRM system for case management and resolution. By tracking issues, getting locations and storing each department's issues in one system, KANA is then able to provide the city and human service agencies with substantive information about neighborhood conditions. The city's departments and nonprofit organizations then translate that information into better service delivery by prioritizing issues and responding accordingly.

"We really simply started with layering-taking the 311 calls and 911 calls and seeing that there's really a pattern here," Mestre says. "Every sweep we've done, we've found some issues."


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