Data Download with Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone

On August 3, 2017, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

By Joseph A. Curtatone

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries and letters to the Editor of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)

Taking a closer look at notable city data—and interesting numbers.

44 percent: Earlier this year, I used this space to discuss the realities of the national opioid epidemic and Somerville’s challenges within the crisis. As I indicated then, Somerville – like much of the Commonwealth – had been seeing an alarming trend of an increase in opioid-related deaths, rising from three in 2012 to 21 in 2016. I told you there were signs of hope, and those signs are still there and getting stronger. Preliminary Somerville Police data shows a 44 percent decrease in opioid-involved fatalities for the first six months of 2017 when compared to 2016. In recent years, we had seen a spike in fatalities during the spring months (averaging 7 each spring from 2014 to 2016). This year there was one reported opioid-related death in the spring.

Let me be clear. One death is one too many. There is still work to be done around prevention, intervention, and support for affected individuals and their loved ones. We must continue collaborating with community organizations around efforts like the ongoing recovery coaching for volunteers, National Night Out, Prescription Drug Take Back Day (like the one in April where we recovered 119 pounds of prescription medication), trauma response training for first responders, and reducing the barriers to those seeking treatment. We also have to prioritize focusing on continuum of care coordination, working with external partners to identify funding opportunities for increased programming and outreach, and pushing the conversation more broadly to end the stigma associated with addiction.

327 requests: Summer is in full swing, and the warm weather brings with it a desire to be outside whether headed to the beach or pool, walking around our neighborhood squares, or enjoying some of our summer events and programming. Unfortunately, longer days and hotter temperatures also bring with it some unwanted guests: rodents. From January 1 to July 24 this year, Somerville 311 has received 327 rodent activity reports, which is a modest increase from the 278 reports received during the same time period last year.

While rodents remain a reality of urban life, the uptick in rodent activity reports during their most active summer period is a reminder for each of us to do our part in curbing rodent activity. Remember to keep food off the ground, use tight-fitting lids on all trash containers, eliminate all outside water sources, and don’t put trash out on the curb until 4 p.m. the day before pickup. If you see a potential rodent or health concern, be sure to contact 311 by phone (617-666-3311 from a cell phone or outside the city) or online.

Your call helps us identify rodent hot spots so that they can be addressed. But even for just one call in an area, 311 alerts Inspectional Services, which will start by baiting nearby sewers and investigating to find the source of activity. Next they’ll take an appropriate additional measures including dusting burrows or advising your participation in our free Residential Rodent Abatement program.

107 trees: As many may remember, a microburst-like storm hit Somerville in June, resulting in the largest tree request event in the past two years. Of the City-owned trees, 107 of them were impacted by the storm: 79 losing branches, 20 complete losses, and 8 still to be determined. Our City arborist is working to determine the best course of action for all of the impacted trees whether that’s trimming, pruning, other maintenance, replacing lost trees where possible, and more.

3 acoustic guitars: We know the importance of continued summer reading for our students, and our Somerville Public Libraries provide excellent avenues to do just that. Whether through programming and events or interesting book collections, there are plenty of resources available to ensure students’ minds stay sharp even when schools aren’t in session. But students aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from the libraries’ offerings. Did you know that, just like you would a book, you can check out musical instruments too, including one of three acoustic guitars, a ukulele, or a West African djembe drum? Visit our libraries and try something new this summer. Visit for hours and to learn more about upcoming events and what’s available for check out.

Data-based decision making is at the core of how the City of Somerville develops policy and sets priorities. Every day we check the latest 311 stats, and throughout the week we meet for in-depth review of departmental data and city trends. The monthly Data Download column shares some of the data we’ve been reviewing recently, as well as interesting updates. To see more Somerville Data, visit the online Somerville Data Farm at


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