Week Two and the 911 Data

Hi! Week two will soon be coming to a close in the Data Science for Social Good summer program. I’m Alex, and I’m one of the interns in the DSSG program. I’ll be telling you a little bit about myself and the project I’ll be working on over the rest of the summer.


A little bit about me: I’m originally from North Carolina, but have been living the last few years in Boston, MA. While there I worked in industry at Charles River Analytics, a software research and development company that designs intelligent systems. Last August I came down to Atlanta to join the PhD Program here at Georgia Tech, and I’ve been working with the Information Interfaces group to design a lot of really interesting visualization systems. One of the projects we worked on during the last year was a system that helps people determine what types of crimes typically occur along their daily commute. We used publicly available data from the Atlanta Police Department. When I found out that there was a chance to spend the entire summer working on problems that could be beneficial to the Atlanta community, I jumped at the chance!

DSSG-ATL Update: This summer I’ll be working with Uma Pavalanathn and Kevin Johnson, who are also PhD students at Georgia Tech. Our goal is to analyze the 911 dispatch data collected by the Atlanta Police Department. We’re starting this off with a lot of standardization work: going through the existing data and gently massaging it so that it fits into the tools that we use to do the analysis. Our hope is to get a few things out of this data by the end of the summer, including an analysis of the patterns that the data currently contains and an interactive system for finding new ones. The city of Atlanta handles a massive amount of 911 dispatches, and it would be really useful for them to have tools that allow them to use that data to proactively plan things like unit patrols and resource allocations. Next week we’ll be spending a lot of time talking to current 911 dispatchers, which will help us get a much better understanding of the challenges they face each day.

Getting to know Atlanta 911: Atlanta PD handles a truly impressive number of 911 calls each year. The city is divided into zones, which are further subdivided into beats. During a normal shift, a dispatcher will cover the calls that come from each zone and try to get a police unit from that beat (or a nearby beat) to the location as quickly as possible. It is a very demanding job, and the dispatcher has to take into account the priority of the call and what calls the police units are currently assigned to. The city of Atlanta employs around two thousand police officers, and the dispatchers help keep them distributed throughout the city at any given moment to not only respond to crimes, but to also provide a visible police presence that deters crime from occurring in the first place.

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