St. Petersburg Redraws 21 Zones and Boosts Performance for Code Enforcement Team
How do you get the right number of city codes inspectors into the right-sized zones for optimal efficiency? If you’re St. Petersburg, Florida, you look at your data every week.
The Codes Compliance Assistance Department in St. Petersburg is making innovative use of its data and setting a new standard for forming and managing codes enforcement in cities.
The Department, led by Director James Corbett, enforces city ordinances in a total of 21 zones of varying sizes. Corbett used his data, hosted on Socrata, to gain insight as to how well the zones and the associated inspector assignments matched the actual workload across the city. Sometimes one inspector is overloaded in a certain area at a certain time of year, such as when plant growth spikes, but has more time in the winter months and could help with special projects.
The St. Pete Approach to Allocating Resources
The data available to Corbett includes the total number of code compliance cases city-wide, how those cases were initiated, time from first report to inspection, and total time for case resolution. The combination of these various data points in a centralized location enables Corbett to dig into the “why” behind some outcomes. A longer-than-usual time from initial report to first inspection, for instance, could indicate either an inspector’s insufficient responsiveness or a burdensome workload. Time for case completion often hinges on owner responsibility, permitting requirements, financial factors, and size of the task. It is valuable, too, to see where most cases are originating, whether from citizen complaint, internal complaints from other city departments, or from Corbett’s own team.
New Zones and New Assignments Thanks to Data
“With all of this information,” says Corbett, “we reexamined and redrew some of our zones; enlarging some and shrinking some, so that they accurately reflected the actual workloads.” The effect of this was a realignment of inspection personnel. A total of 21 inspectors covered the zones, handling all of the general property maintenance issues, with three additional inspectors assigned to special projects.
“We noticed that overgrowth cases take up to 50 percent of our caseload during the spring and summer months, but when the vegetation growth slows down in the winter, those cases subside,” says Corbett. He had been shifting all of his investigators to do what was essentially seasonal work, taking them away from other maintenance matters. “Looking at the data, we decided since overgrowth is seasonal, we could have three investigators cover that during the appropriate months and then we could divert those resources to other special projects without interrupting the ongoing work of our other 21 investigators,” explains Corbett. That ongoing work includes violations in outdoor storage, parking, inoperable vehicles, and general property upkeep.
Quicker Answers Boost Efficiency
Prior to working directly with the data, Corbett and his team relied on an analyst to review data on a monthly basis and pull as-needed reports. If a particular supervisor wanted to take a look at statistics for a certain investigator or in one zone, she would have to request a report from the analyst. “Now, with Socrata,” explains Corbett, “supervisors can look into any type of data in real time. They can examine the data over any period of time, such as a month or just last week, and they can do that themselves, without having anyone run a report.”
“They can examine the data over any period of time, such as a month or just last week, and they can do that themselves, without having anyone run a report.”
Revising zone boundaries and reallocating staff time facilitated a more even distribution of resources. “Analyzing the data ensured that there was equity in the workload,” notes Corbett. With the special investigators freed up during the winter months, they are available to look into new things and take on additional responsibilities with no budget impact. The analyst, too, has been freed up to dig deeper into process improvement rather than spending time running reports.
Citizens Benefit, Too
Citizens are also beneficiaries of this type of data use and accessibility. Residents often want to know what the biggest issues in their own neighborhoods are, and external reporting functionality enables them to zoom in on individual neighborhoods to see which cases are most prevalent as well as how those cases are started, by citizen complaint or department initiation.
“Residents can do all of this without calling us for assistance,” says Corbett. “It is a great service in particular for neighborhood associations, which use the information in their meetings.”
“Any time we can automate our processes or make our information more easily accessible, we will continue do that and, in turn, continue to use the data to become more efficient.”
“As we expand the data we analyze internally,” says Corbett, “one question usually leads to another. Any time we can automate our processes or make our information more easily accessible, we will continue do that and, in turn, continue to use the data to become more efficient.”