In 2016, Boston had 47 homicides, a low number by historical standards. But for Gerard Bailey and Daniel Mulhern, the Deputy Superintendent of the Field Support Division at the Boston Police Department and the Senior Advisor to the Mayor, respectively, “one is too many and zero is our goal.”
Last Friday, our paths crossed with Gerard and Daniel in Harvard Kennedy School Professor Nick Sinai’s Technology and Innovation in Government course. Our team is one of five in the class matched with clients at all levels of government and tasked with helping them solve a problem. Gerard and Daniel lead the Boston Police Department Gang Unit, our team’s client. At our first sit-down with them, we learned that there are about 150 documented gangs and 3,500 young people involved in gangs in Boston. Around 750 firearms were removed from communities last year – 150 by the gang unit.
The gang unit’s goal is “to reduce the criminal activity and anti-social behavior of youthful offenders and youth gangs through directed and community-based policing strategies.” The unit, also known as the Youth Violence Strike Force, must balance multiple goals, including developing an understanding of and respect from the community while simultaneously protecting the safety of the officers and the public.
Currently, our team’s objective is to increase the speed of information gathering in the unit, but until we start speaking with the detectives, we won’t know for sure. What we do know is that our solution must take into account the utmost safety, security and efficiency for not only the detectives with whom we will be working, but the City of Boston as a whole.
And while the class’s title includes “technology,” our solution may not be entirely technology-based. In fact, it might not be very technical at all. What’s most important is that our work is guided by the tech world’s best practices: intense focus on the product’s user, as well as rapid testing of our hypotheses regarding the user’s experience. In this case, the “users” are the police officers for whom we design our solutions.
Based on our diverse backgrounds and interests, we were all paired with the Boston Police Department (BPD) Gang Unit. Below is a little more about the team:
Berkeley Brown (College ‘18) is a Social Studies concentrator at the College who serves in leadership roles within Harvard’s student government, Peer Advising Fellows program, and Harvard Alumni Association. She previously worked as an associate at TurboVote, a non-profit dedicated to increasing voter turnout. She is excited to work with and build solutions for the BPD this semester.
Daniel Goldberg (MPP/MBA ‘19) previously worked as a management consultant to public school districts across the US, where he helped superintendents improve student outcomes while also effectively managing resources and operations. He’s excited to learn from the Boston PD.
Francesca Ioffreda (MPP/MBA ‘17) previously worked as a management consultant across multiple industries and countries. She is passionate about city government and has worked with Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago and Mayor Landrieu in New Orleans. She is excited to work with the Boston PD and support this important project.
Namita (Nami) Mody (MPP ‘18) was previously a product manager and project manager at DoSomething.org, where she improved the efficiency of internal systems and led the organization’s data organization and accessibility efforts. She has an affinity for internal users and processes, and is looking forward to learning how the Boston PD works behind the scenes.
Ihsaan Patel (MPP ‘18) previously worked as a senior finance manager for Greenlight Planet, a social enterprise selling solar lamps to unelectrified communities across the developing world. He is excited to help build something useful for the Boston PD.
The five members of our team are incredibly keen to spend the next eleven weeks speaking with detectives from the BPD Gang Unit and learning about the ins and outs their investigation practices so that we can identify a discrete problem and work towards a solution.
And thanks in advance to the Boston Police for your time and help on this project. We can’t wait to work closely with you!
-Berkeley Brown, Daniel Goldberg, Francesca Ioffreda, Nami Mody, Ihsaan Patel