Bloomberg Outlines Multiple Technology Programs for New York City, From Education and Social Services to Public Safety

"We will establish a six-figure prize for anyone who can invent a device tailored to the NYPD that analyzes DNA right at the crime scene."

by / January 18, 2008

New York City Michael Bloomberg, in his State of the City address yesterday, outlined a number of IT-related initiatives. They include:

DNA: "In the year ahead, we'll use the latest technology to continue turning up the heat on criminals -- and, to more quickly exonerate the innocent. The single most powerful way to do both is through DNA analysis. Two years ago, we convinced the state Legislature to expand DNA testing to cover all convicted felons, and some misdemeanors. This year, we will urge Albany to follow the lead of the federal government -- and a growing number of European countries -- by taking DNA fingerprints from all those who are arrested. This would help keep the innocent out of jail and the guilty off our streets. In the months ahead, we will also challenge the private sector to speed up DNA fingerprinting so that when DNA is left behind, officers can identify suspects more quickly and avoid wrongful arrests. And to do this, we will establish a six-figure prize for anyone who can invent a device tailored to the NYPD that analyzes DNA right at the crime scene. It's just one more way we are trying to bring private sector innovation into the public sector." Other items:

  • Illegal Guns Microstamping: "We will also seek to follow Governor Schwarzenegger's lead in passing legislation that requires manufacturers to use microstamping technology, which helps police better connect crime scenes to guns. Criminals are hoping we don't pass it -- so what are we waiting for?"

  • Mental Health Records into Federal Background Check System: "The Virginia Tech murders showed what happens when state governments fail to share mental health records with the ATF. But Virginia was not alone. Right now, thousands of New York's mental health records are not in the federal background check system. So, this year, we will push for new State legislation requiring all state agencies to supply these records to federal authorities -- and I say: Let's get it done before the April 16th anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre and before another senseless tragedy takes place."

  • Firearms Evidence Database: "Two years ago, under Commissioner Kelly's leadership, the NYPD created a special Gun Suppression Squad to improve our anti-trafficking intelligence. Now, to take this work to the next level, we will begin creating a comprehensive database of firearms evidence -- something no other city in the country has. It will become the latest addition to our revolutionary Real Time Crime Center."

  • Automated License Plate Readers: "We'll also deploy the latest technology against those who seek to attack our city -- a possibility that, unfortunately, is just as strong as it was before 9/11. In the year ahead, Commissioner Bruno and the Office of Emergency Management will help every city agency draw up plans that guarantee continuity of operations during a wide-scale emergency. At the same time, the NYPD will expand its Lower Manhattan Security Initiative by deploying 30 vehicles downtown with automated license plate reading devices. The NYPD deserves the world's best counter-terrorism tools and we're going to make sure they have them."

  • Open Records and Online 311 Request Tracking: "In the months ahead,

  • we will take that philosophy to new heights with a major new addition to our most popular customer service innovation 311. Since 2003, we've logged more than 60 million calls. Now, we haven't been able to satisfy everyone, of course. Someone recently called trying to buy tickets for a Hannah Montana concert. But today, I'm pleased to announce a new and improved 311. The citizens' hotline will soon go online. From now on New Yorkers will be able to track the progress of their service requests on the Web."

  • Online Quality of Life Inspection Reports: "By this summer, the public will also be able to go online to monitor the progress of SCOUT, our roving team of quality-of-life inspectors who hit the streets last fall. SCOUT has already covered every city street three times over -- and we even have one of their scooters here today. Over the coming months, we'll go even further. Working with Public Advocate Gotbaum, we will conduct a massive public opinion survey and reach out to 100,000 New Yorkers to get their feedback on how well city government is serving them. We'll also roll out the mother of all accountability tools, which we call citywide Performance Reporting. It's going to put a wealth of data at our fingertips -- more than any other American city has ever made available. Fire response times, noise complaints, trees planted by the Parks Department -- you name it. More than 500 different measurements from 45 city agencies - all available with a few clicks of the mouse. I like to think of it as a Bloomberg terminal for city government -- except that it's free to the public. And no future mayor will ever be able to walk away from it because the public won't let them, and rightly so. Good government is about transparency and accountability. We're doing everything we can to make them both permanent."

  • Enterprise System Linking: "We will use technology to continue breaking down barriers to city services. For too long, individual agencies have looked at their clients in isolation -- even though many New Yorkers interact with city government on a whole spectrum of issues. For instance, today, the Human Resources Administration has no way of knowing that a woman who is seeking help finding work might also have a history of homelessness and a child in foster care. This year, in a first for any municipal government, we will link the computer systems at more than a dozen city agencies. They'll be able to share client information without compromising confidentiality. Under this new system -- called Health and Human Services Connect -- New Yorkers will have to give us their information only once, and their case file will be updated online as needed. For the caseworkers this will mean less time pushing paper more time with their clients and, most importantly, a more comprehensive picture of the people we are trying to help.

  • Online Student Tracking Database:"And this year, we'll use the power of technology to give families another window into their children's schools. Recently, we unveiled a performance management database that allows principals and teachers to track student progress. This fall, we'll open up this Web-based system to parents. No longer will kids be able to hide test scores from parents."

  • GPS For School Busses: "We will put technology to work in other ways, too. For instance, this year, we'll begin testing GPS systems on our school buses to help us measure on-time performance and keep track of our fleet in the event of a citywide emergency. Technology will also help us in our mission to ensure a first-rate teacher in every classroom. This year, we'll provide a new web-based 'tenure tool kit,' to empower principals to make tenure decisions the right way: Rigorously, fairly, and based on student learning and progress.

  • Congestion Pricing: With the State's blessing, we'll also use technology to create a system of congestion pricing -- something no other American city has done. It will help us achieve four critical, inter-connected goals: reducing traffic congestion; raising money for mass transit; improving our air quality; and fighting climate change."

Wayne Hanson Senior Executive Editor, Center For Digital Government