Researchers from Cornell Tech have developed a method to identify delays in the reporting of incidents such as downed trees and power lines, which could lead to practical insights and interventions for more equitable, efficient government service.

Their method, which works without knowing exactly when an incident occurred, uses the frequency of reports of the same incident by separate individuals to estimate how long it took for the incident to be first reported. The first report establishes that the incident occurred, and subsequent reports are used to establish the reporting rate.

Applying their method to more than 1 million incident reports in New York City and Chicago, the researchers also determined that a neighborhood’s socioeconomic characteristics are correlated with reporting rates.

“We’ve devised a fairly general method that works for a large class of these problems, known as ‘benchmark problems,’ where you can get duplicate reports of an incident,” said Nikhil Garg, assistant professor of operations research and information engineering (ORIE) at Cornell Tech, as part of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute.

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