Socio-Emotional Impacts of Violent Crime

. October 24, 2014

A new study from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics finds that 68% of victims of serious violent crimes suffer socio-emotional problems as a result of the victimization.  These problems include moderate to severe emotional distress, increased relationship problems, and disruptions at school or work.  The study looked at data on victims of crimes such as sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault from 2009 to 2012.

Among the study’s other findings:
  • victims of violence from their intimate partners were five times more likely to have socio-emotional problems than those who were victims of violence by strangers and
  • about three-quarters of victims who suffered serious physical injury (such as sexual assault, robbery, violence with a firearm, or violence requiring medical treatment) experienced socio-emotional problems, compared to 51% of simple assault victims (which does not involve serious injuries).
For more information, read the full report.

Researching Investments and Investment Professionals, a site for investors from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, offers a number of valuable tools to help people understand the different types of investment products available for purchase and the investment professionals who offer them. 

For example, one page offers tips on how to research brokers and advisors and questions to ask before hiring one.

Another useful page highlights the Internet tools that are available to learn about investment professionals, many of whom are licensed by the states or the federal government.

The site highlights these tools as a way for investors to research and verify information before engaging an investment professional.

California Joins Connecticut as the Only States to Require Paid Sick Leave

. October 23, 2014

Last month California became the second state to require employers to provide employees with paid sick leave; Connecticut was the first.

Both NCSL and the San Francisco Chronicle report that Governor Jerry Brown signed the measure into law last month. The law will affect about 40% of California’s workforce (about 6.5 million people) and give them up to three paid sick days a year.

The bill, which has been controversial, had failed for a number of years following the 2006 vote in San Francisco when voters there passed a city sick leave law.

In Connecticut, the law passed in 2011 after being debated for years. It guarantees service workers up to five days of paid sick leave a year after the employee accrues the sick time and meets other requirements.

New Report: Tuition Assistance for Active-Duty Service Members in Other States

OLR Report 2014-R-0242 answers the question: What states provide higher education tuition assistance for active-duty service members?

The majority of states provide tuition assistance for active-duty service members from or stationed in their state.  This can be in the form of allowing these students to pay the lower in-state tuition rate; granting tuition waivers, credits, or refunds; or providing specific grants or scholarships.  The report focuses on state tuition assistance programs for states that provide aid to active-duty service members of the armed forces, including reserves called to active-duty, but does not include the National Guard.
Based on Westlaw searches and discussions with the National Conference of State Legislatures, we found that (1) 32 states, including Connecticut, allow active-duty service members stationed in the state to pay the lower in-state tuition rate; (2) five states (Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oklahoma) have some type of waiver, credit, or refund for active-duty service members; and (3) two states (Colorado and Maryland) provide grants or scholarships for specific service members.

For more information, read the full report.

Underemployment a Problem for Recent Graduates

In September, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate among people with at least a bachelor’s degree was 2.9%, significantly lower than the overall 5.9% unemployment rate. The difference is consistent with previous reports that have found unemployment rates among people with a college degree to be lower than the overall rates.

However, a recent blog post in The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that many of these graduates are underemployed. The post includes survey data from PayScale, a compensation research company, which found that nine college majors had unemployment rates of 50% or higher. In the survey, underemployment included people who are underpaid, not using their education or training, or working part-time when they want to be working full-time.

The Chronicle also notes that underemployment is more prevalent among recent graduates than among the overall population of college graduates. The post cites data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which found that the underemployment rate in June 2014 among recent graduates (those ages 22-27) was 46%, compared to an overall college graduate underemployment rate of 34.6%. Further, the underemployment rate for recent graduates has increased in recent years; it was 41.5% in March 2008.  By contrast, the overall rate for graduates has been relatively steady in that period.

Streets: Not Just for Cars

. October 22, 2014

A new report encourages people to change how they think about streets. Streets, the authors say, aren’t just for cars. According to the authors, “good streets are good places, too–public places where people meet, sit and socialize, conduct business, wander about, play, and more.”

The report, from researchers at the University of Oregon, looks at already-completed projects that use streets differently, and discusses how other cities can use those ideas.

Examples discussed in the report include redesigning lanes, streetscapes, and lighting, and adding pedestrian and bicycling lanes. The use of art is also highlighted as a means of improving streets. According to the authors, results include safer streets, more walkers and bicyclists, and increased retail development, often done without a decrease in the street’s traffic level.

Federal Department of Education Encourages Equal Access to Resources

The National School Boards Association reports that the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has released a “Dear Colleague Letter” addressing equal access to educational resources for all students.  Standards for such access were established in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Title VI requires that “all students have equal access to comparable resources in light of their educational needs.”

The letter describes various examples of education inequalities.  For instance, schools with greater numbers of minority students are less likely to offer Advanced Placement or gifted and talented courses.

The DOE’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released the letter to provide guidance to superintendents and school district officials for correcting such disparities. The letter instructs administrators about (1) education resource requirements, (2) how OCR investigates resource disparities, and (3) how to meet obligations to all students.

College 2 Career Expo at Rentschler Field

. October 21, 2014

On Wednesday, October 22, 2014, Rentschler Field will host the 11th annual College 2 Career Expo.  The expo, which provides college students with a chance to meet with potential employers and receive career advice, is sponsored by the Hartford Springfield Economic partnership, Enterprise Holdings, the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL), and local colleges and universities.
Roughly 50 companies will have exhibits at the expo, including Frontier Communications, Prudential Financial, the state Department of Revenue Services, MTU Aero Engines of North America, Source4teachers, AFLAC, TTM Technologies, FedEx Ground, and the New Haven Police
Department.  In addition, DOL employees will conduct workshops on using LinkedIn and certified professional résumé writers will be available to review and critique résumés. 

Admission to the expo is free.  It will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

New Report: State Medical Assistance for Non-Citizens

OLR Report 2014-R-0247 answers several questions: What is the legislative history of the law that eliminated the State Medical Assistance for Non-Citizens Program (SMANC)?  Prior to the program’s elimination, how much did it cost the state to pay for services to eligible individuals through SMANC?  How many lawfully present immigrants are currently affected by the program’s elimination?

In 1997, the state, through SMANC, began offering state-funded health insurance coverage to qualified immigrants who were ineligible for Medicaid because they had lived in the country for less than five years (see sidebar). In 2009, the legislature eliminated most of the program. Court challenges temporarily halted the termination on constitutional grounds, but the state Supreme Court upheld the state’s right to terminate these benefits.

A 2009 federal law allowed states to provide exceptions to this Medicaid ban for pregnant women and children up to age 21.  Connecticut provides such exceptions to the ban.

According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the state spent approximately $24 million per year on SMANC before the program was eliminated.

According to the Department of Social Services (DSS), when the program was eliminated in 2011, 4,889 individuals lost health insurance coverage.  However, we were unable to obtain data on the number of lawful immigrants currently residing in Connecticut who would qualify for SMANC had it not been eliminated.

Certain individuals who would have been eligible for SMANC may be eligible for other medical coverage under certain circumstances. Federal Medicaid is available to lawful immigrants as well as undocumented non-citizens if they require emergency medical assistance. Additionally, certain lawfully present immigrants can qualify for health insurance coverage with tax credit and cost sharing reductions through Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange, even if they have lived in the United States for less than five years.
For more information, read the full report.

New Federal Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Recruits Medical Students

At an event in Vermont, the recently confirmed federal Veterans’ Affairs (VA) secretary, Robert McDonald, urged medical and nursing students to consider careers in the VA.  He has made similar recruiting appeals in several other states. 

McDonald took over the agency with the mission of lowering the long waiting times for veterans seeking health care. 

The secretary believes that besides filling an immediate need of reducing wait times, the increase in medical personnel will be a long-term way to improve the system.  He also told students of other benefits, such as a new law that allows the VA to provide up to $120,000 in debt forgiveness to medical professionals.

The VA has about 150 medical centers and 820 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the country.  The department is seeking to recruit between 20,000 and 30,000 doctors and nurses.

CT Gets Good Grades in 2014 Digital States Survey

. October 20, 2014

The Center for Digital Government recently awarded Connecticut an “A-” in its biennial Digital States Survey.  The survey examines state governments’ practices, policies, and progress in using digital technologies “to better serve their citizens and streamline operations.” It evaluates states based on criteria that include “actions supporting state priorities and policies to improve operations or services, hard- and soft-dollar savings/benefits, progress since the last survey, innovative solutions, and effective collaboration.”

Connecticut, which received a “C” in the 2012 survey, was one of the most improved states.  Among other things, the survey cites the state’s Enterprise IT Investment Fund and the successful rollout of Access Health CT as key reasons behind its high grade. 

Based on the survey results, the center also named Connecticut its 2014 Best Practice Leader in the “Adaptive Leadership” category, which measures how well a state’s technology initiatives match its governor’s policy priorities. 

GDP: An Indicator Whose Time has Passed?

Everyone who has taken Economics 100 knows what GDP is. And, even for those that didn’t, they know from reading the papers or listening to the Sunday morning talking heads. GDP generally measures how much we spend and invest. But did you know that this most popular of economic indicators was devised during the Roosevelt Administration to see if the New Deal was lifting the economy out of the Great Depression?


It’s been around that long, and it proved to be a valuable planning tool when the nation headed into World War II, the New York Times’ Fred Andrews wrote last spring.  GDP helped war planners “decide how to apportion [the nation’s] scarce resources between wartime and civilian priorities.” Okay, so it’s been around a long time. What’s the point?  Change, economic change.

GDP stands for Gross Domestic Product, accent on “product.” “GDP is a measure best fitted to mass production of handgoods,” Andrews wrote. Consequently, it doesn’t do so well when it comes to measuring services, which, as Andrews pointed out, “have swollen to dominate today’s economy.” And that’s not all—GDP doesn’t “count the underground economy, conducted out of sight of regulators and tax collectors, even though this unofficial sector provides many jobs and is often highly entrepreneurial.”

Andrews was commenting on British economist Diane Coyle’s book, GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History (2014). Coyle took a 360° look at GDP and found other shortcomings. One of those shortcomings Andrews emphasized was that “GDP tells us nothing about whether we are eating our own corn,” meaning, “does today’s growth come at the expense of tomorrow’s? Are we consuming our natural—and human—resources without replacing them?”

According to Andrews, Coyle believes that “while imperfect, the GDP is good enough as a measure of how fast the economy is growing and better than any alternative.” And, as Paul Simon put it in verse, “When times are mysterious serious numbers will speak to us always.”

Reducing Domestic Violence

. October 17, 2014

In recent years, state legislators have authorized general measures to reduce domestic violence, such as broadening the definition of abuse, creating jobs and employment protections for domestic violence victims, and ensuring the confidentiality of domestic violence shelters and counselors.  However, according to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts Stateline Magazine article, these measures have not focused enough on the specific domestic violence problem of different demographic groups.

Given the complexities of cultural differences, generic measures may not be the most effective way to reduce domestic violence.  To be more effective, measures must address how race, culture, and other demographic factors influence domestic violence, the article states. The article cites the following cultural distinctions:
  • African-American women are most likely to be killed by an intimate partner,
  • domestic abuse often involves multiple family members in Asian/Pacific Islander communities,
  • Latinas are less likely to seek help from a shelter, and
  • gay and lesbian victims experience barriers to treatment or resources (e.g., denial of services by certain domestic violence shelters).
At the federal level, Congress has begun tailoring domestic violence legislation to reflect address demographic factors.  For example, the Violence Against Women Act (42 USC §§ 13925, et. seq.) was amended in 2013 to (1) include domestic violence protections for gays and lesbians and (2) authorize tribes to criminally prosecute non-Indians for domestic and dating violence.  Nonprofit organizations, often with federal funding, have been addressing some of these concerns by developing culturally specific domestic violence programs aimed at individual demographic groups, the article states.  

Wild Horses Running Wild

Wild horses pose a growing problem in the western states, federal land managers recently told the New York Times, claiming that the number of these horses is double what the land can support.
Federal law protects wild horses, and the federal Bureau of Land Management is responsible for controlling them. Each year, the bureau removes wild horses from the land and offers them for adoption. But the number of adopted horses never equals the number of those captured. Thus, nearly 50,000 horses are in storage, and the bureau does not have enough funds and space to round up and store any more, the article states. (Storing the horses in private feedlots and pastures costs the bureau approximately $50 million each year.)

But leaving the horses on the land without any population controls leaves little grass and water for other animals. 

Horse advocates, however, believe the wild horse population problem is overstated and worry that the overpopulation claim will encourage horse slaughter practices. The advocates believe the actual problem is land management, one that could be solved by expanding the horses’ territory to encompass more grazing land, the article states.

Vehicle Crash Avoidance Technology Reduces Insurance Claims

. October 16, 2014

Advancements in vehicle crash avoidance technology are helping to reduce accidents, which in turn reduce insurance claims. As reported in Claims Journal, Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, writes that fully driverless vehicles may be years away, but crash avoidance technology currently used in vehicles, such as automatic braking and forward collision warning systems, is already making a dent in insurance claims. “Institute research finds that automatic braking systems are reducing property damage liability claims by around 14 percent.” These systems are often offered as optional features, but Volvo makes its auto-brake system available as a standard feature.

According to Lund, insurers have started a $30 million project to expand the Institute’s vehicle research center facility in Virginia, which will allow researchers to more rigorously evaluate the newer technology.

The Institute’s Q&A discussion has more information.

New Report: Hunting Distance from Occupied Buildings

OLR Report 2014-R-0239 answers the questions: When did Connecticut adopt its ban on hunting within 500 feet of an occupied building, and was there any public comment about it? What do New York and the other New England states require for hunting distance from an occupied building?

Language about discharging hunting devices within certain distances from buildings entered Connecticut statute in 1955 (PA 535). The act authorized the State Board of Fisheries and Game to adopt hunting regulations that could, among other things, prohibit discharging firearms and other hunting devices within specified distances of buildings (CGS § 26-66).

The board adopted regulations on August 15, 1955 that prohibited hunting, discharging firearms, or carrying loaded firearms within 500 feet of a building (1) occupied by people or domestic animals or (2) used to store flammable or combustible material. They also prohibited discharging a firearm toward a person, building, or domestic animal when within range.

The hunting regulations were published in the Connecticut Law Journal on September 27, 1955. While they have been amended numerous times since 1955, they still contain the 500-foot requirement.

According to the legislative history of the 1955 act, there was no public comment about the hunting distance from buildings requirement. State agencies are the repository of records, including public comments, for proposed regulations from that era. The Legislative Library contacted the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) for historical records about the original regulations. Should DEEP provide any public comment related to the 1955 regulation, update the report will be updated.
New York and the other New England states each legislate hunting distance from occupied buildings, but in varying ways. In general, all but Vermont prohibit hunting within a specified distance from occupied buildings: Maine – 100 yards; Massachusetts – 500 feet; New Hampshire – 300 feet; New York – 500 feet (firearm), 250 feet (crossbow), or 150 feet (long bow); and Rhode Island – 500 feet. Vermont authorizes property owners to establish a 500-foot no hunting safety zone around occupied buildings.
For more information, read the full report.

Study Suggests Student Loan Debt is Depressing the Housing Market

The Los Angeles Times reports that an Irvine-based homebuilder advisory firm, John Burns Consulting, recently released a study that attempts to quantify the impact of student loan debt on the housing market.  The study, which examines the student debt of 20- to 40-year-olds, estimates that:

  • 5.9 million households under age 40 owe $250 or more in monthly student loan payments (which is three times the number of households compared to 2005),
  • 414,000 home sales will be lost this year due to high levels of student loan debt, and
  • these lost sales will result in an $83 billion dollar hit to the housing industry.
Although the firm prepared the study exclusively for its clients, a one-page graphic summary is available to the public.

The Times also examined other studies on this topic.  A Federal Reserve Bank of New York study, for example, found that people who never attended college are more likely to hold a mortgage and own a house than people who had attended.  Conversely, a May 2014 Brookings Institute report found that most people who carry student loan debt have low monthly payments, suggesting that student debt’s detrimental effect on the housing market is exaggerated.

And After “Show and Tell” We’ll Write Some Code…

. October 15, 2014

Do you want to introduce your kindergartner to computer programming?  Now there is even an app for that, according to a recent article in the Washington Post.

In late July, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tufts University, and Playful Invention Company released ScratchJr, a free iPad app designed to teach children age five to seven basic computer coding skills.  

MIT News described the process as follows:

“With ScratchJr, children can snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters and other elements in their project move, jump, talk and change size. Users can modify various elements in the paint editor, add their own voices and sounds, and even insert their own photos.”

Michael Resnick, the app’s co-developer further explained to the Post, “When many people think of computer programming, they think of something very sophisticated, but we don’t think it has to be that way.”

According to the Post, the app’s development was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation to help encourage children’s creative thinking and systematic reasoning. Developers are currently working on compatible versions of the app for the Web and Android devices.

Supreme Court to Consider Case on Medicaid Provider Payments

Can private medical providers facing rising medical costs sue a state to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates? This is one of the questions the U.S. Supreme Court will hear during its upcoming session.

Last December, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Idaho Medicaid providers, ordering the state to increase payments. According to Reuters, state officials recommended increases in reimbursement rates in the late 2000s, but the Idaho legislature declined to appropriate funds.

While federal law requires state Medicaid plans to include certain provisions concerning sufficient payments, it does not establish a right to enforce those payments. The question the question before the Supreme Court is whether Medicaid providers have a private right of action to enforce the sufficient payment provisions against a state.

The case is Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, Inc., and documents concerning the case are available at SCOTUSblog.

Become a Dad, Make More Money; Become a Mom, Make Less

. October 14, 2014

If you’re a new dad, congratulations! You have many things to look forward to and making more money is one you might not have expected.  If you’re a new mom, well, you can expect to make less, according to a research study recently reported in the New York Times.

The research, which was conducted by University of Massachusetts, Amherst sociologist Michelle Budig, found that men who live with their children on average see their pay increase by 6%, while women with children on average see the pay drop 4% for each child they have. Budig based her study on the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1979-2006.

“The gap persisted even after Ms. Budig controlled for factors like experience, education, hours worked, and spouse’s income,” the Times reported. She attributed a small part of the difference, 16%, to the fact that fathers work more after the birth of a child while mothers often cut back on their hours.

A separate study found that male job applicants with children stood a better chance of being called for an interview. Stanford University sociology professor Shelly J. Correll conducted the study, sending fake resumes to employers. The resumes were mostly identical except some mentioned membership in a parent-teacher association. Correll found that fathers were a bit more likely to be called for an interview than childless men were, while mothers were half as likely to be called as childless women. “A lot of these effects really are very much due to a cultural bias against mothers,” Correll told the NYT.

New Report: Funding for Minor Party Candidates under the Citizens’ Election Program

OLR Report 2014-R-0231 answers the question: How do minor party candidates become eligible to receive funding under the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP)?

Like major party candidates, minor party candidates qualify for CEP funding by, among other things, raising a specified amount of qualifying contributions (QCs). However, minor party candidates must additionally demonstrate support through either (1) the party’s performance in the last regular election or (2) submitting a petition with a specified number of signatures.

A minor party candidate is eligible for a grant if the party’s candidate for the same office in the same district at the last regular election received at least 10% of the votes cast for that office (i.e., met a “10% threshold”). In this case, the candidate receives a general election grant equal to one-third of the full grant amount for major party candidates running for the same office. A minor party candidate who is not eligible based on the party’s performance in the last election may, as an alternative, use the petition procedure. He or she can meet the 10% threshold and receive a one-third grant by obtaining a required number of signatures. In both instances, the candidate can receive a two-thirds grant or a full grant by meeting a 15% threshold or 20% threshold, respectively (CGS § 9-705) (State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) Declaratory Ruling 2008-01).

A minor party candidate who receives less than a full grant has the option of raising and spending additional contributions, called “differential contributions,” up to the full grant amount, provided they meet the criteria for QCs (e.g., they must be between $5 and $100 and cannot come from state contractors) (CGS § 9-702(c)). One who reports a deficit in post-election disclosure statements may also be eligible to receive supplemental grant money if he or she received a greater percentage of the votes cast for all candidates for the office than the percentage of votes or signatures he or she used to become eligible for the grant (CGS § 9-705).
For more information, read the full report.

CT Supreme Court Rules on Pawnbroker Repurchase Agreements

The Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled that pawnbroker repurchase agreements—also known as “buy-back loans”—are governed by the usury statute, thus limiting the interest rate on these loans to 12% per year. In a repurchase agreement, a customer sells his or her property to the pawnbroker, who holds onto the items for a set time and then sells them back to the customer at the agreed sales price plus interest.

The Connecticut Association of Pawnbrokers’ president Jay Sargent told the Connecticut Post that the decision “shouldn’t have that big an effect” because most of the association’s members do not use repurchase agreements. The association represents about 30% of the state’s 140 pawnbrokers.
But Sargent added that the ruling could cause some pawnshops to close. For example, one pawnbroker told the Post that repurchase agreements account for 20% of his business and that he may have to close his shop after being in business for over 20 years.

OODA Loops and Economic Development

. October 13, 2014

OODA Loops? Is this some new breakfast cereal? Not exactly…

Source:  U.S. Government
via Wikimedia Commons
The OODA Loop is a concept business people and basketball coaches borrowed from the military to show how to get an edge on a competitor. It was developed by the late U.S. Air Force Colonel John R. Boyd in 1974 to explain how a fighter pilot can confuse an opponent and gain the upper hand by accelerating the combat faster than the opponent can see what’s happening (observe), size up the problem (orientation), decide what to do, and act accordingly.  

In his biography of Boyd, Robert Coram explained, “The advantage gained from the fast transient [i.e., rapid change] suggests that to win in battle a pilot needs to operate at a faster tempo than his enemy. It suggests he must stay one or two steps ahead of his adversary; he must operate inside his adversary’s time scale.”

Okay…I can see how this works in sports, especially in basketball when a team surprises its opponent by executing a fast break. I can even see how it works in business, as when Netflix snuck up on Blockbuster and stole its market share. But I’m still not sure how the OODA loop relates to economic development.
The OODA loop works in any situation where time and competition intersect. States compete for economic development by dangling incentives to businesses in other states. The states on the opposite side of these economic development fast breaks scramble to come up with their own incentive packages to discourage the targeted business from relocating. 
The OODA loop suggests at least two things for economic development policy makers. First, identify your strengths and weaknesses and determine who can exploit them and how. Second, identify other states’ strengths and weaknesses and determine if your state has a competitive edge.
But maybe there’s more to the interstate competition for economic development. Maybe the competition is being driven by technological change as well as state incentive packages. These changes, especially those in telecommunications and information technology, allow many types of businesses to operate anywhere in the world. If that’s the case, then state incentives may tip the balance, making the difference between a choice of several viable locations.  
A final word: Borrowing an idea or tool developed to explain aerial combat and using it to understand economic development is an example of exaptation, a concept Steve Johnson discussed in his book, Where Good Ideas Come From: That Natural History of Innovation. As Johnson explained, Guttenberg got the idea for the printing press after seeing how the screw press was used to squeeze grapes for wine. has more information on OODA Loops.

A detailed depiection of an OODA Loop.

Source: Patrick Edwin Moran

Teachers to Live in Public Housing in Exchange for Participating in Afterschool Programs

Four New Haven teachers may be allowed to live rent-free in subsidized housing units in exchange for participating in afterschool programs, including tutoring, homework help, and community events, the New Haven Independent reports.  This “teacher in residence program” is also designed to give these teachers more time to mentor at-risk youth and interact with parents outside the classroom. The resident teachers would have to pay only utility costs.

The teachers can move into the units if the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approves a change to the Housing Authority of New Haven’s (HANH) current “moving to work” plan, a HUD-funded initiative aimed at improving low-income families’ lives. HANH budgeted about $25,000 to house the teachers.

Are GIS-Crime Mapping Systems Effective in Fighting Crime?

. October 10, 2014

Many larger police departments have computer systems designed to track crime in near real-time. These geographic information systems (GIS) can be used to aid in making decisions about where to deploy police officers based on where crimes are predicted to occur based on where and when crimes previously occurred.

But do these systems reduce crime rates?

The short answer is: no one really knows. A new study (subscription required for access to full study) released by researchers at Sam Houston State University found that “no empirical work links GIS to police deployment effectiveness.”

“There is a near total lack of independent evaluations of GIS effect in police organizations,” said professor and study co-author Yan Zhang in a press release. “Since GIS represents a significant element of both strategic and tactical decision making for law enforcement agencies, purposeful, focused and relevant evaluations would contribute to maximizing GIS efficacy.”

Seniors and Technology Use

“[Technology] adoption is increasing, but many seniors remain isolated from digital life,” according to a 2014 Pew Research Center Study of just over 6,000 adults age 18 or older on their use of technology.

Among the study’s major findings:

  1. 59% of seniors (age 65 and older) report they go online—a 6% increase in the course of a year. In addition, 77% have a cell phone, up from 69% over the same period. This means 41% of seniors still do not use the internet and 23% do not have cell phones.
  2. Rate of internet use by younger, higher-income, and more highly educated seniors approaches—or even exceeds—use by the general population; internet use drop off dramatically around age 75.
  3. Older adults face several difficulties to adopting new technology, including physical challenges, skeptical attitudes about the benefits, and learning difficulties.
  4. Once seniors start going online, it often becomes an integral part of their lives.

Profiling Connecticut’s Towns

. October 9, 2014

Curious how your town got its start?, a project of Connecticut Humanities (the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities), profiles each of Connecticut’s 169 towns, providing information on their founding, early economy, notable residents, and tourist attractions.  Each town profile includes citations to further information on the town’s history and attractions.

You can also study historical town maps by browsing the UConn Map and Geographic Information Center’s (MAGIC) Historical Map Collection.

Source: MAGIC collection

New Report: Nitrogen Removal Initiatives

OLR Report 2014-R-0234 answer the questions: What are the primary sources of nitrogen in Long Island Sound (“the Sound”)?  What steps is Connecticut taking to reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the Sound?  Is the state collaborating with New York or Rhode Island on nitrogen reduction efforts?

Nitrogen in the Sound comes from many natural and human sources. The primary human sources are wastewater treatment plants. Other human sources include urban and agricultural runoff and atmospheric deposition. Excess nitrogen causes reduced oxygen levels, which negatively affect aquatic life.

Connecticut is engaged in many initiatives to reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the Sound, several in collaboration with New York.

Connecticut and New York participate in the Long Island Sound Study (LISS), a bi-state partnership with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which investigates water quality in the Sound. In 1994, LISS developed a conservation and management plan to protect and improve water quality. The plan identifies hypoxia as a priority concern. LISS is currently updating the plan.
LISS also helped Connecticut and New York develop a goal of reducing the nitrogen from human sources in the Sound by 58.5% by 2014. The goal was included in a federally-approved Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) agreement between the states to reduce nitrogen in the Sound.

According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Connecticut complied with the TMDL goal in 2013. It met the goal by (1) requiring wastewater treatment plants to operate under general permits that gradually reduce the nitrogen discharged and (2) operating a nitrogen credit exchange program.

Connecticut’s other nitrogen reduction efforts include (1) collaborating with the Sound’s upper watershed states, (2) designating the Sound as a “No Discharge Area” for vessel sewage, and (3) operating programs to control nonpoint source pollution (e.g., runoff).

According to DEEP, Connecticut and Rhode Island do not similarly collaborate on nitrogen reduction in the Sound, since Rhode Island has little effect on the Sound’s water quality. (Hypoxia is a condition occurring primarily in the Sound’s western half.)
For more information, read the full report.

Hospitals Reduce Costs By Encouraging Standardized Care

According to a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article (subscription required), some hospitals across the country are attempting to reduce costs by standardizing care. They do this by encouraging physicians to follow national, evidenced-based guidelines on how to best treat different diseases. The article notes that while professional medical organizations, such as the American Hospital Association (AHA), publish such guidelines, doctors often deviate from them because of personal preference, fear of patient lawsuits, or institutional customs, among other things. This may result in overuse of certain tests and procedures.

The article highlights Delaware’s Christiana Care Health System, which changed its computer system to encourage doctors to follow AHA guidelines for using cardiac monitors for non-ICU (intensive care) patients. It did so by removing the option to order monitoring for conditions that were not AHA-approved, which required physicians to complete an extra step if they still wished to order the monitoring for non-approved conditions. In addition, for AHA-approved conditions, the computer system attached a fixed, recommended time period to complete the monitoring. If a patient remained in the hospital after the time period elapsed, nurses were required to stop the monitoring, unless it was believed to be unsafe. 

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that the number of non-ICU patients using the monitors and the hospital group’s daily monitoring costs decreased 70% without any negative effects on patient care.

The WSJ article notes that the movement towards standardized patient care is challenged by many physicians who (1) want additional evidence to support this movement or (2) believe that they should not consider cost as a primary factor when providing patient care.

NHTSA Launches New Tool and Campaign to Increase Car Seat Safety

. October 8, 2014

Source: NHTSA
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched its new “Car Seat Finder” tool during Child Passenger Safety Week. The tool prompts parents and caregivers to enter a child’s birthdate, weight, and height and, based on their inputs, produces a list of car seats that are appropriate for the child. It then allows users to compare car seats on several factors, including acceptable weight and height ranges of the child, weight of the car seat, and ease of use. Users can also limit their search to car seats with certain features, such as all-in-one car seats. The tool is included on NHTSA’s Parents Central, which also provides how-to information on car seat installation and helps parents find car seat inspection stations.

In addition to the tool, NHSTA launched their “Don’t Delay. Register Your Car Seat Today” campaign, which encourages parents and caregivers to register car seats with the manufacturer so they can be quickly informed of any recalls.

Affordable Housing Linked to Smarter Kids

According to Governing, Johns Hopkins University released a study recently linking affordable housing to children’s school performance.  The study focused on families at or below 200% of the poverty level.  It showed that children in families spending roughly 30% of their income on housing performed better in math and reading than those in families spending much more or much less (i.e., more than 50% or less than 20% of their income). 

Professor Sandra Newman of the university’s Center on Housing, Neighborhoods and Communities co-authored the report.  According to Newman, the findings indicate that families that spend too much of their income on housing, ultimately spend less on things that contribute to educational achievement (e.g., books and computers).  Families that spend too little on housing are more likely to live in low-quality housing and distressed neighborhoods—factors that also have a detrimental effect on learning. But when families move from spending too much or too little on housing to around 30%, they tend to invest an average of $98 and $170 more, respectively, on child enrichment.  And according to the study’s press release, even a small increase makes a difference.