Philadelphia’s Rising Illegal Dumping 311 Requests: Update

In my February 2nd post, I showed how Philadelphia’s Illegal Dumping 311 requests have been rising since the City started systematic data collection in 2015 (link).

Philadelphia’s 311 calls and on-line requests have been growing since January, 2015, so it is fair to ask whether  Illegal Dumping requests are increasing as a share of  all 311 service requests.  I will give a quick answer then I will explain how I arrived at the answer for those interested in the details.

Yes, Illegal Dumping is increasing as a percentage of all 311 field service requests, as shown in the chart below.

idsr_percent_all_sr_trend

Since information and directory assistance calls are included in the 311 OpenDataPhilly file, I removed them from the 1.2 million 311 records to determine the identify the field service requests.  I then computed the Illegal Dumping requests as a percentage of the monthly field service requests, as shown above.

The illegal dumping trend is quite clear. Philadelphia residents are submitting more and more illegal dumping requests to 311  each month. The exception was January, 2016. It turns out that we had a 22.4 inch snow storm on January 24th which depressed the number of illegal dumping requests as residents had the pressing challenge of shoveling snow.

This is just a small example of the important information hidden i the City’s 311 raw data. Now that we have a well organized 311 data reporting and tracking system, we need to move forward with a routine analysis of our 311 data to understand trends and patterns.

Philadelphia Police’s Crime & Maps web page  provides an excellent example of how we should use the City’s 311 data to prepare regular management reports for City officials, Council members and residents.

Street Trash = Illegal Dumping + Litter

Philadelphia has a street trash problem that is being mislabeled as a litter problem. We all understand litter, the soda bottle, snack food wrapper that is tossed on the sidewalk. Unfortunately we tend to use litter for all  “street trash”, both gross illegal dumping and the extraneous snack food wrapper.

I have started using street trash to label all street-sidewalk-vacant lot-park space debris, including tires, TVs, mattresses, bulky items-furniture, residential trash as well as the pedestrian snack food droppings. All is trash, all has wound up in our common space, hence the term street trash.

Here are several Philadelphia 311 illegal dumping service request photos taken from the 311 OpenDataPhilly website (link) on Monday, February 6, 2017.

We will only have clean streets when we address and begin to control our illegal dumping crisis. Much of what we call litter actually start as bags of residential trash that are placed on a sidewalk by someone unwilling to wait until the next trash day.

Let’s start to call all dumpers by their right name, DUMPERS.  An old mattress or soda bottle tossed on the sidewalk comes from the same thoughtless behavior. We need to go after all dumpers, big and small.

Philadelphia’s Zero Waste & Litter Cabinet (link, link) is a great opportunity for Philadelphia to  begin to control out waste & trash future. It is absolutely critical that we recognize the importance of illegal dumping in litter efforts. We need to tackle both illegal dumping and litter to get our streets to the cleanliness level that we want.

Philadelphia Vacant Land & Building Indicator Data Check: Update 2/2/17

This post updates my 1/25/17 post about the City’s Vacant Land & Bldg Indicator data set. This important resource is now available on-line here.

This post reports on interactions with the City on the vacancy status of   437 Collom Street and discusses follow-up field survey and review of L&I’s property history for the site.

City staff responded quickly to my inquiry on the vacancy status of 437 Collom Street as follows:

“Thank you for checking this address. There is only one indicator that had this address, and it is not highly weighted. So the resulting score fell below or 50% confidence value for publishing in the VPI as potentially vacant.”

The City’s response shows just how difficult it is to diagnose vacancy status from data files. Utility data and other City property data resources can provide important information but can not provide 100% accuracy.

Based on the City’s response I took another look at 437 Collom Street to better understand the property situation. L&I had issued an Unsafe Structure Notice notice on 1/25/17.

Here are some photos from 1/27/17:

I then reviewed L&I Property History (link) to see what previous L&I activity at the property.  Here is a screen shot of L&I’s history:

li_violation_history

Review of these history records indicate that the City had issued a violation in July, 2011 and a vacant property license in 2012 which expired in 2015.  CLIP issued a property violation in Dec., 2016.

 

Philadelphia’s Illegal Dumping Continues to Rise

Philadelphia 311 service requests for January, 2017 show that the number of illegal dumping requests continues to rise. The January, 2017 number of 1,277 illegal dumping service requests is 55% higher than the January, 2016 count of 821.

311_illegal_dump_sr_trends_jan_2017_1

This is a not a good stat for hopes of cleaner Philadelphia streets in 2017.   2016 already had a 35% increase in dumping service requests over 2015 (link).

Here is the illegal dumping requests by Council District along with a count of photos submitted as part of 311 service request.

jan_2017_idsr_by_district

28% of the 1,277 illegal dumping service requests included a photo documenting the trash conditions.

I culled the 361 photos to this set of 16 that reflect the street trash problem in Philadelphia in January, 2017.

Philadelphia Vacant Land & Building Indicator Data Check

I previously wrote about Philadelphia’s innovative use of technology to identify potential vacant buildings and properties in this  Nov. 16, 2016 post. The data is readily available on the OpenDataPhilly site (link to data).

This article provides background information on how the City develops the Vacant Property Indicators. In this post I want to show how citizens can field verify the Vacant Property Indicators data.

In my District 8 travels, I found a number of chronic illegal dumping sites, including the 400 Block of Collom Street.

Based on my visits to the 400 Block of Collom St, I  know that there is a large vacant commercial property and building that is used as an illegal dumping site.  I wanted to see how the City’s Vacant Property Indicator data assessed this properties in the 400 Block of Collom Street.

Using ArcMap 10.4,  I developed a map included the Vacant Property Indicators and the Philadelphia Department of Revenue parcel boundaries.  Here is a screenshot of the resulting map:

437_collom_st_composite_map

The Vacant Property Indicator (11/16 version latest available on OpenDataPhilly) does not show 437 Collom to be vacant.

September, 2016 Google StreetView photography is available for the 400 Block of Collom Street. Here are screenshots looking NE and SW.

Google StreetView and my repeated visits to the site confirm to me that 437 Collom St is vacant while the Vacant Property Indicators do not classify the either the property or building as vacant.

I will raise this finding with the OpenDataPhilly Discussion Group (link) and will report back on any updates.

ArcGIS Story Map of LA’s Clean Street Index

LA is using ArcMap, dashcam, GPS and cameras to develop detailed street cleanliness index. Click this link to see an interactive Story Map of this innovative use of GIS to tackle a pressing urban problem.

la_clean_street_index_story_map

Cleanliness Indexes are available by 39,915 street segment and are summarized into operational grids.

Philadelphia, like LA, has a serious street trash problem.  We need to dramatically improve our street cleanliness efforts. Following LA’s Clean Streets Index would be an excellent start for the Mayor’s Zero Waste & Litter Cabinet.

 

 

LA Cleanliness Index More Effective Than Philadelphia’s Litter Index

Philadelphia has been using a litter index to assess street trash conditions since 2007 (link). Here is the most recent litter index, downloaded from OpenDataPhilly.  The actual dates for the litter survey data is not provided.

phl_litter_index_fall_2016

Philadelphia’s Litter Index provides a 1-4 composite score for 111 trash collection day area in the City. The City’s meta data file states:

The Litter Index is used to compare the relative cleanliness of different areas of the city of Philadelphia. he relative cleanliness of different areas of the city of Philadelphia.

Originally created in 2007, the Litter Index is used to compare the relative cleanliness of different areas of the city. The Litter Index is scored on a 1-4 scale with 1 being minimal litter and 4 being extremely littered.

The City’s Litter Index has a number of shortcomings which limit its usefulness as a City trash hot spot identification and management tool.

  • Data collection is based on relatively large areas, with an average of 2.2 square miles. Seriously trash street segments are masked when the data is averaged over such a large area.
  • Street Litter Index Values for specific areas vary widely from survey to survey, raising concerns about the reliability of the underlying methodology (link).
  • There is no relationship between 311 Illegal Dumping Service Requests and Street Litter Index.

phl_litter_index_311_il_dmp_sr

Los Angeles has developed a Street Cleanliness Index (link) which provides detailed street segment by segment data not available in Philadelphia’s index.

Here is a short video describing how LA used a dashcam, smartphone camera and ArcGIS to score each street segment in LA.

LA  uses assigns a  1 to 3 cleanliness score for Loose Litter, Illegal Dumping, Weeds and Bulky Items as well as a composite score.  Here is an example of the LA Cleanliness Score Map , showing segments with Clean, Somewhat Clean and Not Clean scores.

la_map_snippet

With the LA method, the Not Clean (red) segments standout.  Philadelphia needs to adopt a detailed street litter index score system like LA so that we can pinpoint the badly trash street segments and begin getting our trash problems under control.