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Alex Pettit

Director of Technology Services, Denton, Texas

Alex Pettit is the director of Technology Services for Denton, Texas, a recent winner in the Center for Digital Government's Digital Cities Survey. Denton developed and implemented what the city calls a "23-layer Web site" that helps citizens locate key data faster.

Explain the concept of a 23-layer Web site.
We've done work on search engines and building the pages to conform to specific series of requests. We've done analysis of what people are accessing and where the majority of requests for information are, and we try to move those farther up [and] bring those more quickly to the user.

What is presented to [the citizen] on the system is dependent upon what questions or tasks you are trying to accomplish. Varying a single keystroke or step, you'll get a very different presentation, so we've tried to make it a custom interface so the delivered information is as closely matched to what you're looking for.

We've taken a lot of our public access data and moved it -- data that was informational in nature: parks and recreation events, postings of reading notices, the one-way sending out [of] information. We housed that information off site. That's done by a service provider.

We've got only the transactional data and the research data, like some of our online images we provide, and have been able to segregate the information-only from the information that's transaction-based or records-based.

Explain CAMstat (Consultation, Adaptation, Mobilization) and the live map queries.
It's based on New York City's CompStat [crime mapping system]. Being a university town, we get a lot of questions regarding places where students would reside -- crimes in the area, what kind of events occur and so forth.

We developed a sophisticated system for tracking these events and responding to them. A gentleman who was doodling on our city street signs was caught after we predicted where he would go next. Additionally we've been able to open up a lot of it to the citizenry, and [they can] do their own research online.

They can search by crime type or incident type, by date, location, say a mile around a specific address.

We're trying to make information more easily available to the public in general. Some of that is in response to concerns of racial profiling and just a general concern about what our police are doing. We're very proud of it.

What's your biggest upcoming challenge?
Our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity for success will be integrating our leading-practice solutions into a complimentary enterprise architecture.

We, like many other communities, embraced a leading-practice-type methodology, where we'd identify the best utility billing system or the best police department system, and we brought these things in and instead of bringing the departments together, instead of technology being a unifying force, it actually has reinforced information silos within the organization by making the autonomic-level information incompatible with the other silos.

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