Research teams assessing 20,000 property parcels in Flint and Youngstown

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Data collection for the new MI-YVPC core project, Community Engagement and Revitalization, is under way in Flint, Michigan, and Youngstown, Ohio. We are studying whether involving community youth and adults in greening activities reduces violence to a greater degree than either professional greening or no maintenance. This work builds upon and supports programs developed by local land use organizations and previous research that indicates that caring for vacant properties can have beneficial effects on the health and safety of residents.

We are using three different assessments for this project:

  • The Parcel Maintenance Observation Tool (PMOT) is used to assess the level of maintenance and landscaping on properties surrounding the vacant lots.
  • The Neighborhood Life Survey is used to assess residents’ perceptions of their neighborhood.
  • The Social Observation Tool is used to assess the amount of activity on streets nearby the vacant lots.

For this project, we opted to use tablets to collect our data electronically. After much evaluation, we selected Samsung Android tablets and used two programs for data collection: Esri’s Collector for ArcGIS and Qualtrics. Collector for ArcGIS is a mapping platform used for the Property Maintainance Observation Tool. Qualtrics is an online survey application with an app that permits offline use. We are using Qualtrics to collect responses to the Neighborhood Life Surveys.

Using these electronic applications improves efficiency of the data collection process. We are able to prevent errors in data collection by providing set responses, conduct quality control checks frequently and easily, reduce environmental impact of paper forms, and complete data collection and data entry simultaneously. Surveyors easily and quickly pinpoint parcels on the map within ArcGIS Collector and enter the data in real time. Data stored on tablets are synced at the end of every shift, thereby allowing remote supervisory staff the ability to review data collection progress with minimal delays. Also, since the data is being collected electronically, there is no need for a separate data entry process, making the project even more efficient.

The assessment teams are comprised of community members from Flint and Youngstown. Many individuals on our Flint team have worked with us before, and we are especially proud to have one our original YES program participants on the team as well. We are also excited to be working with our new partners at the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) in Youngstown, OH, developing relationships with them and the community.

Both teams are now in the field and are assessing 11,045 parcels in Flint and 8,753 in Youngstown. They will complete the first wave of survey, property and social observation assessments this fall, and go back into the field again during the summers of 2017 and 2018 to repeat the assessments each year.