Friday, March 31, 2017

Unique dataset

Open data is the rage in policing these days, spurred on by the White House Police Open Data Initiative, which sprang to life after the release of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing  report.

A handful of early adopters contributed some of their data to the portal, which is now hosted by the Police Foundation. With the launch of Lincoln's open data website, I thought we might offer up our data to the Police Foundation portal as well, and I have been in contact to do so.

Since the early months of the initiative, the number of police departments providing open data in the United States has grown dramatically. Lincoln is not exactly the first wave, although as a percentage, the number of agencies offering license-free, machine-readable datasets is still mighty small.

Those departments offering open data typically have such things as police dispatches, incident reports, traffic stops, arrests, and so forth. Some have use of force reports,  and officer-involved shooting incidents. Here in Lincoln, we really only have one dataset that is somewhat unusual, and I would venture to say it's actually unique.

What we have that would fit the definition of unique is this: a dataset consisting of tens of thousands of surveys asking citizens about their recent experience after actual police contacts, and also about their perceptions of safety in the neighborhood where they live.

This survey, our Quality Service Audit (QSA) was originally developed in conjunction with the Gallup Organization in the mid-1990s. It is a telephone survey conducted by Lincoln Police Department student interns, volunteers, and recruit officers in training. Surveyed citizens have had recent police contact in one of three categories: arrested or cited, crime victim, driver in traffic crash. 

The survey is not random: it is only conducted with citizens who have had recent police contacts of these types; it only surveys citizens who surveyors were able to reach by telephone; and the volume of surveys completed is dependent on the availability of surveyors,which fluctuates throughout the year.

While many police departments conduct surveys, very few of these survey people who have actually had recent police contacts, even fewer of those include surveys of people who have been cited and arrested. And I am pretty comfortable in saying that nobody has two decades of individual row-by-row records open to the public: 78,134 survey responses from 1996 through 2016.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Open data for Lincoln

Today the Mayor is announcing our new Open Data and Performance Management website, The site brings together some extensive data applications and resources that have been available on various City websites, but may have required some deep digging. Now, they are also available in this single portal where they may be more easily accessed.

More importantly, though, the site also provides open data: license-free, machine-readable datasets that may be downloaded in such common formats as csv, kml, shp, and json. A bit over half of the 100+ resources on the site today are available as open data, including both tabular and spatial datasets such as police incident reports, traffic crash records, zoning, city council districts, and much more.

Information about the City's performance management process, with links to the relevant data and documents will also allow visitors to see how we are doing on the City's eight key outcomes, along with their associated goals and performance indicators. We have also included a link to the City's new performance management meetings, LNKstat. The status reports from LNKstat meetings will show you what we are working on and the action steps planned.

Lincoln is joining a select groups of cities in the United States that are making open data available to the public. It's a great way to allow citizens to use these resources in creative and entrepreneurial
ways, and to increase transparency in municipal government.

Our open data site is built on the ESRI ArcGIS open data platform, which several other cities are using, such as Washington DC, Minneapolis, Tampa, and Wichita. It is a work in progress, and I expect it will continue to evolve as we add more data and features in the future.

I've been pleased to lead the City's open data initiative for the first few months, as the convener of our open data governance committee. We got a start last summer, when our City Council unanimously passed an open data resolution introduced by council members Trent Fellers and Leirion Gaylor Baird. The resolution created the governance committee, which has contributed a great deal to this project, and continues to work through five subcommittees.

Last fall, we were selected by What Works Cities to receive technical assistance and support for performance management and open data. Eric Reese from GovEx (Johns Hopkins Center for Government Excellence) was our primary contact from What Works Cities, and helped us tremendously. Thanks to all of these individuals and organizations for putting Lincoln on the open data map!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fifty years ago

It's Nebraska's 150th anniversary today. Nebraska became a state in 1867. I arrived here in 1967,  Nebraska's centennial year. I was reflecting on this today, and came upon an interesting statistic from 50 years ago. In 1967, there were 445 traffic fatalities in Nebraska. Last year, there were 194. This huge decline is even more dramatic when you consider the population increase over the past 50 years, and the increase in miles driven. Here's what the trend looks like since 1995:

There are probably many factors that contribute to this decline, such as better roadway engineering, air bags, anti-lock breaks, stability control, better emergency medical care. Nothing, however, is as important as seat belt usage. Roadway surveys show that about 83% of Nebraskans were buckling up in 2016. Unsurprisingly, 68% of those who died in Nebraska collisions last year were not wearing their seatbelt.

Last night, as I was preparing dinner, a PulsePoint alert fired off on my phone. It was an injury traffic crash at 29th & O Street. I pulled up the nearest traffic camera, which is at 27th Street. It looked bad. An SUV was on its side, and it appeared to be a high-speed right angle collision. The driver of that vehicle, however, walked away with only minor bumps and bruises--because she was buckled up.

There is probably nothing you can do today that is more important in protecting you from death or injury than simply using your seatbelt. Make sure your passengers do the same, and that your children develop the lifelong habit through your example.