The Los Angeles Police Department has forged an unusual and strong partnership with the county’s Department of Mental Health to provide smart policing that deploys doctors, nurses, and social workers alongside patrol officers. Co-deployment of officers and clinicians reduces the incidences of unnecessary force used on individuals suffering from mental health issues and improves evaluations of whether someone needs to be in custody; this approach can save monies and ultimately lead to a more therapeutic outcome for the individual. Teaming up with mental health clinicians has also saved municipal funds by helping to identify root causes of behaviors such as excessive summoning of emergency personnel, and connecting those individuals with counseling and support.
To better understand how people drive in New York City in order to mitigate traffic gridlock problems, the city’s Department of Transportation has unveiled a program that tracks the driving habits of 400 volunteers, including how fast they go, how they break and turn, how much gas they use, when they drive, and where they are. Drive Smart is a yearlong pilot program, which equips participating vehicles with a small device that tracks these metrics and offers drivers discounts on auto insurance and other incentive rewards. Privacy advocates note the potential for vehicle hacking.
Montreal is making city water more accessible without incurring substantial construction costs by retrofitting fire hydrants with a device that enables them to also serve as public drinking fountains. The two hydrant-fountains still allow for use in putting out fires. Aside from reducing the use of bottled water, the fountains will also fill a need for homeless and elderly residents. More hydrants are expected to be retrofitted in the coming months.
In part of a yearlong pilot, federal agencies are making it easier for people to give the government feedback using a simple kiosk on their way out the door. The kiosk asks people if they were satisfied with the service they received, and they can then press one of four buttons to register different satisfaction levels. Submissions are anonymous, and are summarized every hour for officials. The kiosks are already in place at passport and Social Security offices, and the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs will soon be using the technology.
To combat the public urination that is rampant in certain areas of San Francisco, the city is testing urine-repellent paint on walls in areas that get sprayed. With the new paint, anyone urinating on the specially treated walls will get the spray splashed back onto them. The city, which got the idea from Hamburg, Germany, provides fair warning in the form of notices posted in areas where the problem is prevalent and is also installing solar-powered toilets.