Home - Breaking News, Events, Things-To-Do, Dining, Nightlife


Crime, potholes, homelessness: Jackson turns to data for answers

Jackson is laying the groundwork to use data across city departments and use it to address, initially, youth crime, homelessness and infrastructure needs. 

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba is a member of the Bloomberg Philanthropies City Data Alliance, which trains mayors to understand data and use it to make decisions that can improve city services.

“If we don’t have proper data about where we stand, we can’t set sufficient goals of where we want to go in the future,” Lumumba said, adding that data also allows goals to be measured and followed.  

Twenty mayors from North and South America are part of the cohort, which met last spring. The mayor said the program is an opportunity to learn from other city leaders and see what Jackson is doing well. As part of a network of mayors, he can reach out to them even after the program is over.

James Anderson, head of government innovation programs for Bloomberg Philanthropies, said the mayor joined the program last year with an ambitious application that articulated a vision of changing a work culture that did not use data before. 

The use of data, including in city settings, has been a trend for the past decade, but the Bloomberg program is looking for mayors who want to take greater steps, Anderson said. 

For example, Jackson is now one of the few cities across America with a formal citywide data strategy, he said. 

“This alliance was the next step to help the most ambitious cities make ambitious gains,” Anderson said. 

Lumumba hopes using data can help the city be more proactive in its decision making and dealing with crises. As part of the citywide strategy, departments are also getting help with accessing data, understanding it and using it more in their daily work. 

One of his goals is to use data to reduce youth violence by addressing root causes of violence. 

Data has helped the city see that the sharpest increase in violence has been youth, and that has led to focused efforts for that population, such as work through the Office of Violence Prevention & Trauma Recovery and a youth curfew approved at the beginning of the year.

One challenge of a youth curfew is finding a place to house those who violate it, Lumumba said. There is a county facility, the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center, but it holds those charged with misdemeanors or felonies, including those who face adult criminal charges. 

A way to provide space for youth to go and to give them access to programs is through curfew centers, which Lumumba said are in the works. In a March episode of a city talk show, he said there are plans to partner with a local church to open a curfew center

Lumumba envisions the center as a place staffed with social workers and professionals to provide extra curricular activities and work on conflict resolution skills. 

Through the program, another of the mayor’s goals is to use data to get Jackson to “functional zero” homelessness, which is the point where the same number of people entering homelessness exit homelessness in the same month. 

Although Lumumba said there are regional challenges to addressing the issue, recent counts show that 67 of the 93 people experiencing homelessness in central Mississippi were in the metro Jackson area. 

Nearly 1,000 people experienced homelessness in Mississippi in 2023, according to the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The common way to get these numbers are through “point-in-time” counts, which are completed annually by continuum-of-care service providers across the country in one day and gives an estimate of sheltered and unsheltered populations. 

Lumumba said he would like data collected in Jackson to go further because the current point-in-time counts are insufficient to understand what circumstances people are facing. Better data can help determine who needs housing and maybe, additionally, services for mental health or substance addiction, he said. 

Lumumba’s last data-related priority is about infrastructure needs and assessing the condition of roads and systems. 

He said a need is clear if residents report a road needing to be paved or a burst pipe. But beyond that, he said there is more work to be done, such as how paving projects relate to each other and how to create more mobility within the city. 

A program like the City Data Alliance can help cities make policy decisions, streamline services and look forward, said Dallas Breen, the executive director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University, which provides research, training and services to municipalities, counties and government agencies. 

Like Jackson is doing, Breen said it is helpful to work with a data scientist who can help city leaders and staff and understand the data they are looking at and how to collect it. 

“The more data you have, the more informed your decisions will be,” Breen said.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

Local Dining Stream

Things To Do

Related articles