What if your police department could predict crime, sending officers to the scene before anything happened? Wouldn’t that be better than calling 911? As sci-fi as it sounds, the city of Roanoke, Va., plans to implement a new “intelligent policing” model based on statistical analysis.

That’s only one example of how the city has been applying the lessons of recent training to improve its services and efficiencies. Representatives from seven city departments received training in lean management at the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center.

“Lean management helps organizations reduce costs, eliminate waste, and streamline processes,” says center director Kay Dunkley.

Situated beside The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center on the seventh floor of the Roanoke Higher Education Center, the Roanoke Center is home to a number of graduate degree and certificate programs tailored to organizations and individuals.

Lean-management training provides a system for identifying low-cost, high-return opportunities to change.“We focus on where we can have the most impact with our customers,” says Becky Kates, who led the training for Roanoke employees. 

Kates, a quality manager with Blacksburg, Va.-based Adaptive Technologies, instructs students to look for the “low-hanging fruit.” Once they’ve found success with their first project, they begin to make an impact on organizational culture, she says. Ideas for additional projects spring up quickly.

Roanoke has witnessed that phenomenon. Many of its employees are already on their second round of a lean project. The public works team, for example, streamlined the process for residents to obtain a permit for public assembly. The team is now looking at the related issue of how to manage street closures.

Meanwhile, the human resources team improved its onboarding process, which refers to the time it takes to get a new employee in the system and productive. Other departments have cut administrative and material costs as well. The point is to save money for the city or to provide a higher level of benefit to its residents.

Roanoke police Lt. Stephen Keatts says he believes the intelligent policing model will return a 20 percent benefit to the city.

“We’re making great progress on the reorganization of the police department,” says Keatts, who is excited about the potential to make Roanoke safer. “We’re rolling a crime analysis function into what we do. If we can predict where crime is going to be, it will be like going to Vegas.”

The city plans to hire three statisticians to do crime intelligence tasks, which will free police officers to spend 30 percent more time on the street and lieutenants to spend 60 percent more time on the street.

“You’re going to see more officers in your neighborhood,” Keatts says. 

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

Written by Jill Elswick.
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