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Smart City: South Bend Awarded Wave Of Technology And Resources From White House Initiative

December 14, 2015

Another example the mayor mentioned was instruments that will be utilized by local law enforcement to detect gun shots.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend has become a regular guest at the White House since becoming the youngest Mayor to be elected by a city with a population over 100,000 in 2012.

When asked about how his Sept. 14, 2015 trip to the White House and what working with the President on the Smart-Cities program has been like, the mayor made a good connection to why South Bend was chosen as a pilot location for the initiative.

“He is terrific. You know he really cares about cities, he is somebody who always takes time to make sure that things are going well for mayors, which I really appreciate, because not every White House has been as responsive to the needs of cities.”

Data sensors and collection efforts will be parts of the initiative that aim to help the city fight crime, save money on infrastructure, and provide technological benefits to medical, civilian, and government entities of the city.

For those unaware, the mayor is an active reserve U.S. Navy intelligence officer who has used his skills in Afghanistan focusing on the two-headed beast of drugs and terrorism that has plagued the country for generations.

Buttigieg is excited to help implement new intelligence technology at the local level in South Bend.

“We are really just at the beginning at some of the possibilities for addressing crime with data analytics. One thing that is going on right now is we have a group violence intervention [that] helps us get ahead of gang-related and group-related violence. Using social-network analysis and data about say, for example, who gets arrested, with other people, allows you to map out some of the social networks of what proves to be a tiny handful of people, often feuding with each other, who are actually connected to the bulk of shootings in a city. This model was pioneered in Boston in the 1990’s and has become more and more sophisticated since. We have been applying it here for about two years. It is a good example of the benefits you can get, the intelligence, so to speak, that you can get out of data that we already have, but have never used in this way.”

When asked if they will be able to access information directly from social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others, the mayor responded, “You could do that, you could use data on arrests, who was with who and when, and other ways that you know are a bit more sensitive that I should not get into.”

Another example the mayor mentioned was instruments that will be utilized by local law enforcement to detect gun shots. This helps the police because many gunshots that are heard go unreported for various reasons.

“Most times somebody hears a gunshot, they actually don’t call it into the police, so being able to automatically detect those has really improved our ability to identify hotspots in trouble areas and direct resources where they are needed.”

The technology is called Shotspotter and is based on microphones that are posted on high locations around the city. They are connected to computer programming that can tell the difference between a gunshot and a car back-firing for example. That actually talks automatically to dispatching systems and gets officers on the scene right away instead of having to wait for someone to make the decision whether or not they want to call the police and to do so with accurate information.”

The mayor noted that his administration is also taking a studious approach to this initiative. “I am sure there are other things we can learn from correlating and analyzing that data that we just have not been able to do yet, but I am excited for the future because I think this will also help us save lives.”

Some of the lives that will also be affected by this initiative are the local wildlife in and around Bowman Creek. The creek is a tributary to the St. Joe river that has become severely polluted and in some areas even being used as a dump site for trash and other waste. The city will be working with local high-school and college students to clean up the creek.

One of the biggest ways that Mayor Buttigieg has been proactive about making South Bend a smarter city is the recent six million dollar investment in the city’s sewer infrastructure. The preventative move will save the city nearly $100 million as its eventual infrastructural capital transition process is completed.

The mayor seems to have an air about him that suggests he is destined for bigger things politically, but is more interested in helping South Bend at the time being. When asked if he wants to use this initiative as a platform for a higher office someday, the mayor responded, “I am totally focused on South Bend right now...my mind is on how to make this a great city.”

In a recent Fortune.com interview, the mayor said, “People with talent are increasingly drawn to the city level.”

When asked what message he would send to the talent that has left South Bend or the college talent who plan on leaving as soon as they graduate as to how they can instead re-invest in the city, Mayor Buttigieg said, “Well, I hope more people come home like I did. It has been a very good decision for me personally, as well as professionally. It is great to be making a difference in your hometown. This is a community that is big enough to have a lot of the challenges and opportunities of a big city, but small enough that you can make your mark and really have an impact on something you care about.”

This includes IUSB. The mayor pointed out that, “I would like to better connect downtown to the campuses like IUSB...so this area can come into its own as a fun, hip, arts-oriented retail area."

The Odyssey Online