When the new 2020 census data arrives upon your desk, as a chief what can you glean of value from this data? The simplistic answer is to compare it from April 1, 2010 to the current date and then extrapolate whether there has been an increase or decrease in population. However, you have not yet begun to scratch the surface of the data that is available to you. One must digest the data and seek applications to all of your operations. Let’s get started from top to bottom.
There is one section everyone goes straight to (near the back) Geography population per square mile which is always used in planning. The insightful application of census data can be extremely helpful for your administration for deployment of resources. Actual changes in tax base is the basic starting point. It is used as a base line to achieve planning of budget via projected taxes. However, the census offers more to assist you with your community policing responses, proper deployment of resources and futuristic planning when applying projected trends. Let’s delve into some talking points to get you prepared.
Age and sex data offer few insights. The male-female ratio are traditional numbers. But I tend to look at the age brackets. Persons under 5 years along with Persons under 18 years – comparisons can predict your youth outreach programs. If you are a growing community with influx of young couples, these numbers will reflect starting of families. The Persons 65 and over percentage can reveal another shift in your outreach programing. The Senior Citizen population can sometimes be a challenge to any department. Larger senior communities like to be engaged (programs/presentations), they are prime crime victims as well; an increase here should be analyzed closely. Seniors can be service intensive, and it is a growing segment of society.
Race and Hispanic origin should be closely scrutinized for trends. For whatever reason, I have found to keep abreast with these numbers, I also reviewed the public-school data for race/Hispanic origin from their enrollment numbers. You cannot wait ten years for data; hence the school district data will reveal these trends. Their student numbers are updated bi-annually and more accurate. You cannot wait ten years to adjust to community needs. Of course, parochial and home-schooling data is often hard to obtain. You should review the Two or more races response, for this for it could skew your data if you are tracking police encounters by race, for this confuses many.
Population Characteristics will give you Veterans and Foreign-Born persons numbers. Both of these groups always need consideration. As a veteran, I have always been aware that to assist a veteran in need I had to be aware of local veteran support groups and Veterans Administration outreaches. Within the veteran group, you will find two glaring realities, higher than average homeless numbers and suicides. As for foreign-born, here again there could be emerging trends with immigration and resettling of refugees. It would behoove you to have interpreters on call for the various languages and dialects. Should you have vast number of a group, consider a training for staff on their cultural nuances for familiarity.
Housing is a big one to review. Have there been changes in the Housing units data? What about owner-occupied housing unit rates? The median value of owner-occupied housing units gives a nod on real estate taxes for the general budget. If you review the median gross rent, see what renters are up against. Can workers or younger generation be able to actually live in the town where they work? The percentage of renters will usually make you review the number of landlord-tenant calls, (got any slumlords?) and housing units available. The growth of a community often hinges on available/affordable housing. There is a section for building permits which gives you a heads up on developments.
Families & Living arrangements may offer insights in number of households and persons per household are interesting data. The language other than English spoken at home is one again to pay attention to (recall foreign born from previous section). Have you identified staff that are bi-lingual? Do you have certified translators on board? Consider your recruiting outreach here as well. Also, there are computer and internet use, households with computers and households with broadband internet subscriptions which are trendy topics now. With online public education outreach due to COVID-19, the connectivity for children’s education is paramount and in some areas a stumbling block. Add the working from home trend only reinforces that connectivity to the internet is now a basic consideration for life, work and education. As many departments increase their web presence, offering more services, notifications and warnings on the internet – just how many can you truly serve if there is limited connectivity.
Education – persons age 25-plus in both high school graduate and bachelor’s degree or higher are interesting tidbits. They will later tie in with economy and business data, but they can give you some other insights. I have seen some agencies that make presentations, outreaches and their web presence far above the levels of their average citizen. You always speak with your constituents but never speak down to them. The practice of lofty impressions will turn away many. You never look down at your citizens except to help them up. This is the same as overreliance on web presence and connectivity, again not all are that wired in, seek inclusion not exclusion.
Health – These usually are not law enforcement centric. These reveal the number under the age of 65 with disabilities and those over 65 without insurance.
Economy – this section is one that is interesting and revealing. Sections with civilian labor force 16 years-plus (total and female). Total health care and social assistance receipts/revenue will tie somewhat back into the previous health section. There are several sections here manufacturers’ shipments, total merchant wholesaler sales, retail sales and retail sales per capita. With the budget always looming, here you can get a feel if there was increases within these, which all fund the general budget. Whether this data went up or down, your budget does not get any smaller. Salaries should have increased, other line items gasoline, technology and all of the other items for service delivery increased. These should help you with budget workshops and budget battles.
A very interesting line here is mean travel time to work (minutes). It is a rarity to live and work in your hometown, exception with the recent COVID-19 working at home variable. You may be serving a "bedroom community" and there is nothing wrong with this. This is the community that your citizens selected for whatever their reasons – great school system, lower crime rates/safety, lower taxes, quality of life or additional recreational opportunities. Matters not, just know that if you have after-hours meetings, you may need to adjust later in the evening to allow for their commute.
Income & Poverty- This one you need to pay attention to. Median household income, per capita income and persons in poverty. All can be revealing but also know the working definitions. The 2018 poverty threshold for a family was $30,718.00 per US Census. Now, certain philanthropies, social assistance organizations and states have different poverty thresholds. If you are applying for a grant, make sure that you are using the correct numbers.
Businesses – Total employer establishments along with total non-employer establishments are numbers that may not equate to your business licenses data base nor local chamber of commerce data. I always averaged them out for my base line. There are few interesting units within the section I review: Firm ownership by males, females, minority-owned, nonminority owned, veteran and nonveteran ownerships.
Not included - One long-time contested data that you will not find, but will have to extrapolate for yourself. You may have to get some additional data from GIS and other sources is the age-old daytime verses nighttime population swing. I only wish it was there, but it is possible to calculate. Your residential population is one thing, but the daytime shift creates great upticks in service. A shopping mall or plaza will create more calls for service during business hours that in the wee hours of the morning. There are also special event or season data that you can work on as well. A small town can explode with a fall football weekend or seasonal event. During budget battles some may challenge your police to population ratio (which to me is antiquated thinking). What your residential population may be is a part of the budget (tax) income but you must grasp your true service population. The daytime/business hours add to your service base with employees, customers and students. If you are a tourist or conference destination, the seasonal adjustments need to be done as well. I always was in contact with my local chamber of commerce and tourist boards.
As a chief, it is not every day you have time for extra data analysis. The new census will be very instrumental in your next few year’s budgets and operational scheme. Always have a few "nuggets" of data ready for meetings just in case you need to defend your department. As you defend, others wish to defund.