Chief of Police Kevin Davis described Zencity Blockwise as a tool to measure public sentiment and build trust in the community at a press conference yesterday (Monday) to provide more information about the new countywide initiative. He was joined by Zencity Chief Strategy Officer Michael Simon.
“When we partnered with Zencity, we wanted to take that next step and better capture community feedback, community sentiment,” Davis said. “And we want to make sure that the things we do as a police department are in line with the expectations of our broader community.”
Zencity Blockwise is already used by other police departments across the country, including Chicago and San Diego, but it represents an evolution of public engagement tools utilized by FCPD.
Davis noted that just over a year ago, FCPD piloted My90, a community performance feedback tool designed to measure residents’ satisfaction with FCPD following an interaction with law enforcement.
However, Davis explained that, unlike that previous survey, Blockwise captures “sentiment about policing that is not pursuant or following a police interaction.”
Instead, the tool works to limit FCPD’s “blindspots” around residents’ everyday needs by increasing public access to local law enforcement and providing a platform for citizens across a vast and diverse jurisdiction to voice their concerns, according to Davis.
“The way to ensure that we have a more representative voice in the community is to reach as many people as humanly possible,” Davis said. “So people who don’t typically attend community meetings, people who don’t typically have interactions with their police departments, but they certainly do feel a certain way about public safety and about their police department.”
To assist in the FCPD’s goal of increasing its reach, Zencity uses census data to divide Fairfax County into its eight patrol regions and serve randomized digital advertisements to all devices across the county, according to Simon.
The advertisements encourage residents to submit an anonymous two-minute feedback survey that asks open-ended questions about the FCPD in eight different languages.
“You’ll see an advertisement that solicits your feedback wherever you may be on the internet,” Simon said. “That ad is targeted at you because we need you to fill a demographic and geographic quota that represents what the census data tells us about each individual neighborhood.”
The FCPD will then analyze the results to more effectively address the community’s most urgent needs based on the voluntary information provided by county residents. Drawing a parallel to other law enforcement technology that tracks local crime patterns to lower crime rates, Simon explained that Zencity measures three key indicators: fear of crime, trust and priority.
After enough data has been collected to establish a baseline, the survey results will be continually updated and posted to the FCPD’s open data portal, which already has data related to subjects such as use of force and internal retention rates, according to Davis, who emphasized a commitment to community transparency.
Since launching on Thursday, June 1, the survey has already received around 300 responses. Simon said Zencity hopes to garner 1,500 responses every month.
He also hinted that Zencity and FCPD will potentially pilot end-of-survey questions about respondents’ contact information, but for now, the service will be “one-directional.”
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