In 2014, 150 people were murdered in New Orleans—a nearly 4 percent drop from 2013. Still, the city’s murder rate was one of the highest in the country and more than three times the average for U.S. cities of a similar size.
Pretty scary numbers. But that was the lowest number of criminal homicides recorded in the city since 1971 and the city’s lowest per-capita murder rate since 1999.
So what happened?
Well, it seems the credit goes to Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the city’s Innovation Delivery Team, or i-Team, an eight-person group created in 2011 with funding from a $4.2 million grant from the foundation Bloomberg Philanthropies, according to an article in Government Technology magazine.
The i-Team is based on Bloomberg Philanthropies’ innovation model that relies heavily on data for decision-making. In this case, crime statistics were amplified with data analytics to identify high-risk individuals, criminal social networks, and the neighborhoods that foster them—so that the appropriate preemptive safety and patrol measures could be implemented in the high-risk areas to minimize crime.
Headed up by computer specialist Charles West, the team—which didn’t know anything about crime or policing but did know about data and analytics—was charged with figuring out how to reduce violence and murder in the city.
Working with the police department, the team processed crime and murder data from as far back as 1960, analyzing the circumstances surrounding each murder—something that had never been done.
They consolidated long-term crime trends from 70 neighborhoods as well as the homicide rates for the past 30, 20, 10, and five years onto a single dashboard. They even analyzed granular data for the past three years broken down by police districts, according to the article.
Layered on top of this analysis were mapped statistics of additional data such as educational attainment, unemployment rates and, recidivism (repeat offense)—intended to provide a holistic view, according to the article. The team also recognized the demographics for populations most at risk of violent crime.
The data revealed that African-American males, 16-24 years of age, within the city’s four high-crime neighborhoods were at the highest levels of risk—both as victims and perpetrators.
Further, the team also devised creative ways to prevent shootings or other murderous activities. They developed social guidance and law enforcement outreach programs, such as hosting interventions called “call-ins,” aimed at the at-risk young men or likely offenders.
Based on criminal records, data analytics regularly help uncover the 800+ people in the city most likely to commit violent crimes and city officials ask the most notorious gangs/gang members to appear in court as part of the call-ins. The crime situation in New Orleans is grave enough that even the mayor gets involved—demanding an end to the violence.