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GCN : February 2014
Several years ago, the town of Cary, N.C., the seventh largest municipality in the state, had a problem common to many city governments: Too much data spread across disconnected databases prevented city planners from making the kind of data-driven decisions needed to provide services to a growing population. On top of that, the number of Cary residents grew 43.1 percent between 2000 and 2010, putting increased de- mands on the police, public works and social services departments. "We had so many disparate soft- ware packages and databases that we couldn't look comprehensively across the entire organization to see how any one thing was impacting multiple de- partments or maybe all departments," said Bill Stice, the town's technology services director. Moving toward a more data-driven ap- proach to decision-making, Cary turned to the SAS Analytics suite of tools to pull information from all its databases into a data warehouse so city planners could perform analytics against the data. Using SAS' reporting and analytic tools the police are now on track to reduce crime, department heads have a clearer under- standing of their budgets and other units are tracking efforts to meet customer service goals. The data warehouse is just the begin- ning, according to Stice. "We've ac- complished a lot of the data warehouse parts, but we are new --- still crawling --- with the analytics piece," he said. "We are looking at ways to improve opera- tions through advanced analytics." What Cary has been able to accom- plish so far in its "infancy" stage is im- pressive. Currently, the focus is on provid- ing information that was dif cult to exploit in a timely manner to the city depart- ments, city of cials and citizens. Here are four big data-driven projects that returned the rst tangible results for Cary citizens and city managers. 1. FINANCIAL DATA INTEGRATION When revenue projections dropped dur- ing the recession a few years ago, Cary of cials had to quickly decide what to cut from their $350 million capital bud- get. And they needed to know in more detail what unspent funds remained in active capital projects. By combin- ing data from three different databases --- capital projects budget, operations budget and ledger/ nancial systems --- they were able to quickly spot unspent funds in active capital projects, freeing up more than $10 million. 2. UTILITY USAGE DATA METER Cary's nance department built a portal that lets water customers check their water usage and determine if they have a leak. The town's advanced meter infrastructure system pulls in hourly meter data over 13 months to generate 600 million rows of data, which is too much for a spreadsheet to handle, Stice said. Now, nightly meter readings are compiled in the SAS analytics database, which automatically summarizes the data and presents daily, weekly and monthly usage information to residents via a portal. 3. LINKING CRIME REPORTING The city's police department has been able to provide property managers in 41 multifamily apartment communities daily crime and incident reports to help them keep criminals out of the complexes and track down people who are violat- ing their leases. Before deploying SAS, the four of cers in the unit had to sift through the department's records man- agement system to match addresses in police incident reports with the apart- ments. Then of cers would have to do the same with service calls generated by the computer-aided dispatch system or ask the department's crime analysts to generate a report, Lt. Ken Quinlan, an of cer with the Cary Police Department, said. Now, SAS extracts the information from the two systems and puts it into an Excel spreadsheet for the of cers. Within seconds, incident reports and calls for service in the apartment com- munities are accessible to the police. The information is then emailed to the property managers. The speed of the data matching means that a person arrested at 3 a.m. for possession with intent to sell narcotics gets an eviction notice on his apartment door by 11 a.m. It also lets of cers patrol communities and perform targeted community out- reach instead of spending time compil- ing reports, Lt. Quinlan said. 4. LAW ENFORCEMENT STATISTICAL COHERENCE Police of cers have faster access to crime statistics compiled from various databases via a SAS portal, said Elise Pierce, a crime analyst with the police department. The statistical information --- includ- ing the number of calls for police as- sistance, the location of repeat calls and the speci c nature of the call --- can be used to better allocate personnel, put- ting of cers in hotspot areas at speci c times. Prior to using the SAS tools, the process was tedious, taking two hours to download the information into a data- base. Pierce would like to expand the department's capabilities, moving into predictive analytics to anticipate circum- stances based on growth in the town. "One of the goals is to use predictive and visual analytics," Stice said. The town is already pulling its geospatial data into SAS Analytics, which is one way to incorporate the visualization. Predictive analytics could be used to determine how future growth is going to affect the level of services Cary offers it residents, he said. • Small town reaps big results from 4 analytics apps BY RUTRELL YASIN [BrieFing] 10 GCN FEBRUARY 2014 • GCN.COM