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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 program has expanded dramatically from the six to eight clean sweeps a year conducted in 2006 and 2007. In 2012, the city conducted 27 Clean Sweeps and two mini-sweeps citywide. The program partners volunteered 6,075 manpower hours and addressed issues at approximately 5,400 properties. By the end of the Clean Sweeps season in October this year, Buffalo will have performed another 27 such operations.

Breaking Down Data Silos Was a Challenge
Bringing all that together wasn't without its challenges. The city's Management Information Systems (MIS) department had to bring all the various city department heads together to break down the various departmental information silos, determine which data sets were useful and how best to express those data sets (for instance, selecting a unified way of identifying various properties). That was possible, Mestre says, because Mayor Brown was insistent on breaking down data silos.

"All of our departments are integrated with our 311 system," Mestre says. "That's really helped break down those silos. All of our departments are integrated."

"Once we had all the data coming into one place, it made it easier to double, triple, even quadruple our efforts," Mestre adds. "Having the leadership, equipment and software to bring this together has allowed us to expand the program and really add a lot of different partners. We used to do this one a month or every two weeks. We're now doing it once a week."


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