Study seeks to spot problem areas

CUMBERLAND — Cumberland officials have approved a study that will examine a variety of local trends — everything from crime to property complaints — in hopes of identifying areas town departments need to target for improvement.

The $14,000 study, guided by a committee of local stakeholders with data collection provided by a private firm, kicks off in March. For the first several months, data will be collected from local government, including the police and fire departments, as well as town’s planning and street departments. That information, including 911 calls, vacant property reports and health department violations, will be entered into a database that will track and map the activity as it occurs, said Christine Owens, planning and development director.

Local officials will then use the data to identify issues that are — or are at risk of becoming — problematic trends in the community. The hope, Owens said, is to develop specific enforcement strategies that target problem areas.

The long-term goal is to attract more economic development, drawing new residents and businesses, by addressing the issues that might keep them from locating to Cumberland, said Anna Pea, a member of the town council, which approved the measure at a recent meeting.

In coming weeks, town officials will assemble a committee to guide the study, which is expected to take until May 2017 to complete, Owens said.

“It’s ambitious; it’s going to take a lot of time and energy, but we’re definitely going to get a lot out of it,” town manager April Fisher said.

The committee will include leaders from town hall, including the fire and police departments, local residents and business owners, as well as a few representatives from surrounding communities, Owens said.

Cumberland sits on the Hancock-Marion county line, and the committee will seek input from Hancock County and Indianapolis government officials, Owens said.

As the study unfolds, the committee will hold public forums to seek input from community members to assess interest in specific issues, Owens said, adding that all plans will be presented to the town council for approval.

“We want to include everyone in the process,” Owens said. “It’ll be a community-wide process.”

Owens plans to hire a private consultant to help map data as it’s collected. The project is funded through existing town engineering funds.

In recent years, the town has taken steps to try to engage community members and create a sense of pride in the area, Pea said.

This is a natural progression of that effort, she said.

“There’s so much more that we can do with the help of the community,” Pea said. “And when you have an active community, it shows.”

Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or