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PR- 401-11
November 9, 2011


First Time Major Cities Have Convened a Working Group to Share Strategies on Data Analytics

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chief Advisor John Feinblatt today convened representative from major cities to share information and techniques used in employing data analysis to solve urban challenges. Representatives from Boston, Philadelphia, Newark, and Chicago joined members of the Mayor’s Policy and Strategic Planning Analytics Team in the first session of a new working group that will discuss the various technologies and methods each city is developing to enhance data analytics driven towards maximizing the return on taxpayer dollars.

“I’ve long said that my time in business and government has taught me that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Our Administration has made usage of data a hallmark of our problem-solving strategies. Like us, other cities across the country are also working to come up with innovative ways to use data – particularly in these times of fiscal discipline – and we should all be learning from each other’s experiences.”

“The City’s Policy and Strategic Planning Analytics Team – led by Michael Flowers – has been leading the charge on data analytics and is sure to continue its strong work as the cornerstone of this new working group,” said John Feinblatt. “Analytics programs increase efficiency, create cross-agency transparency, tailors responses to problems that are rare but catastrophic, and enables innovation all while reducing the cost to the taxpayers. It’s the future of government.”

Data-driven analytics is the systematic use of information to find patterns of interest. For cities, this means looking inwards at the detailed data that city agencies continually collect – citizen complaints, licenses and permits, transactions, violations – and identifying new areas of high risk and high cost.

Cities can then respond to these findings by prioritizing the high impact areas appropriately. In the past, individual agencies have been limited in their ability to conduct large-scale analytics by mandate, scope, and organizational structure. City agencies across the country, which each already have a prescribed list of duties they must fulfill to keep the city running smoothly, often do not share data with one another, nor are they equipped analyze it. In an era of shrinking budgets, however, many cities, including New York, have made new efforts to solve this problem by creating teams existing specifically for the purpose of data investigation that can cross agency boundaries, with promising results.

In the past year, Mayor Bloomberg’s Policy and Strategic Planning Analytics Team has launched successful analytics programs in three areas: fire risk, prescription drug abuse and mortgage fraud.

To identify properties with a higher-risk of fire death, the Analytics Team combined FDNY data with data on illegal conversion complaints, foreclosures, tax liens, and neighborhood demographics. They found that certain factors strongly correlate with fire risk, including multiple illegal conversion complaints, the owner’s financial condition, the year of construction, and socioeconomic factors of the neighborhood. The Team then used this analysis to create a risk assessment model, which it is now using to give enforcement agencies a weekly list of the highest risk properties with illegal conversion complaints, which are then inspected jointly by the Department of Buildings and FDNY.

The improvement in resource allocation from this project has been dramatic. From 2008-2010, the City had found seriously hazardous conditions in less than 15 percent of all of its illegal conversion inspections. However, using the risk assessment model over the past six months to target high-risk properties, the joint inspection teams have found and eliminated seriously hazardous living conditions in more than 75 percent of their inspections, a rise of over 400 percent. 

Similarly, the Team is using data-based targeting over property transactions to detect and respond to incidents of mortgage fraud.

Today, representatives from each of the five cities participating gave presentations of their cities’ work to date. Issues discussed included 311 logs, housing and foreclosure issues, mapping public transportation, and benefits allocation and distribution.

  • In Chicago, Mayor Emanuel’s technology and data team is using advanced analytics to identify progressions among 311 events within neighborhoods, allowing the City to develop tailored, proactive strategies to reduce costs and improve service delivery.

  • In Boston, Mayor Menino’s analytics team has been using citizen complaints, land use data, code violations, crimes, and tax records to predict where absentee landlords may be plaguing neighborhoods with unmaintained properties.  Once identified, the city levies severe financial penalties on absentee landlords until problems are corrected. 

  • In Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter launched PhillyStat, which leverages 311 and other performance data for accountability and problem-solving. PhillyStat encourages cross-agency transparency and coordination throughout Philadelphia’s government and breaks down barriers to serving Philadelphians. 

  • In Newark, Mayor Booker's technology staff is beginning to leverage analytics to benefit all aspects of Newark government, particularly within the area of education reform.”

During the working session, representatives of Kroll, a risk consulting company, gave a presentation on open source data mining and analysis. Going forward, the cities will participate in a monthly call, and the working group will create a joint website where members will share methodologies, challenges and successes in implementing analytics programs in their respective cities.


Stu Loeser/Julie Wood   (212) 788-2958


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