Chief Service Officer Model: City Spotlight on Buffalo

Using the Power of Data to Fight Blight and Crime

The Problem

The city’s efforts to fight widespread urban blight and crime were falling short.

  • A program called Operation Clean Sweep deployed teams of city workers seven or eight times a year to perform targeted blight mitigation services in a three-block radius, from cleaning up graffiti to repairing signs.
  • Unfortunately, just as Operation Clean Sweep began making a difference, it was hampered by budget cuts.
  • The program’s impact was also limited because seven or eight “clean sweeps” each year was not enough to tackle significant levels of blight and crime citywide.
  • What’s more, city staff chose areas to target with “clean sweeps” based on a subjective sense of which blocks needed it most, an approach that lacked precision.
The Solution

The Chief Service Officer dramatically increased the city’s ability to reduce blight and crime by synthesizing and applying data from various areas of government.

  • Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown appointed his director of citizen services, Oswaldo Mestre, Jr., to the position of Chief Service Officer.
  • Mestre transformed Operation Clean Sweep into a collaborative program that leverages data, such as information from 311 and 911 calls, to target areas of the city that are most in need of services.
  • Mestre, who came to the CSO role with knowledge of city data thanks to his previous experience as director of citizen services, persuaded the heads of various government departments to implement new processes that supported efficient data sharing.
  • In addition, Operation Clean Sweep now engages the collaborative services of nonprofits, government, national service programs, and citizen volunteers to deliver the services it provides, rather than relying entirely on city staff.
The Results

Under the CSO’s leadership, the city has dramatically expanded its capacity to combat urban blight and crime in highly targeted ways.

“Once we had all the data coming into one place, it made it easier to double, triple, even quadruple our efforts. Having the leadership, equipment and software to bring this together has allowed us to expand the program and really add a lot of different partners. We used to do this one a month or every two weeks. We’re now doing it once a week.”

Oswaldo Mestre, Jr., Chief Service Officer, City of Buffalo

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