Friday, January 14, 2011

City Government By The Numbers

Numbers matter. Numbers quantify how organizations plan to execute, how well the plan has worked and where to form a new plan. The most obvious quantification of desired results is the amount of money set aside in a budget for activities and goals. This is not exactly rocket science or complex mathematical reasoning. Everyone does it, whether with detailed financial plans or a casual look at the wallet to see if there is money for basic needs and then some left over for optional purchases.

Individual consumers exchange money for goods and services. At the supermarket, the customer hands money to the cashier in exchange for the items in the cart or at the movies for the right to sit in a seat and view the film. Companies exchange money for employee services, for new computers, for accounting services and so forth. Again, this is not complex.

Our city is no different. Residents are taxed and pay taxes in exchange for basic services and how that tax money is apportioned is the clearest indication of what the community values. In North Bay Village, close to 70% of our budget has been dedicated to police services. This is a clear indication of the high value that North Bay Village puts on having a local police department. North Bay Village is justifiably proud of being an exceptionally safe community.

Police services are not a single entity. When a city pays for police services, the city is paying for a full package of services and part of fiscal stewardship is quantifying the services delivered and the quality of the services delivered.

For at least a year, several commissioners and citizens have been asking for the basic statistics on the police department, not just the crime reports (UCR is the acronym) but the actual activities of the police department. This is a routine and normal reporting function for most American police departments. These reports vary in what they quantify, but a typical report is attached below and it includes a good summary of the police activities.

We need this basic information to manage our money. We need to know what the police are doing. Look at the attached report below from Sunny Isles for the month of October 2010. It's simple, understandable and shows what the police did, not just crimes committed. This basic quantitative measure can be further explored for answers to critical questions such as "Are we having a new problem with traffic violations?" or "What is the cost per dispatch call? How many were duplicates?" and "What skills do our police need?" It doesn't provide the answer to these questions but brings them forward.

At the meeting on Tuesday night, the chief could not tell us the arrest stats. Vice Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps and one of the residents talked about how pleased the residents are at more visible patrols but no one can quantify how many patrols there are. A commission can't make policy based on anecdotes. The commission needs verifiable and agreed information.

It is the chief's job to provide that, regularly. The chief spoke about benchmarking, which is a qualitative measure of how one group performs compared to goal. An organization cannot get to benchmarking without first deciding what it is to be measured, measuring it and then comparing. It was a good answer but not to the question posed. A better answer would have been, "I'll provide the requested information."

I urge you to look at the Sunny Isles report. There's nothing hard in here. This is information that the North Bay Village PD have currently and it would be unimaginable if the police chief did not have these numbers. It would mean all of the PD's decisions were guess work and the NBV PD is better than that. This will continue to be an issue until the police chief makes the information public.

Kevin Vericker
January 14, 2011

Sunny Isles Police Statistics Oct-2010

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