CHICAGO (CBS) — The city is taking a strategy used to combat potholes to cut down on the backlog of requests for tree trimming, dead tree removal and graffiti erasure.

When Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Tom Byrne headed the Chicago Department of Transportation, he took a program used by police to plot crime patterns and used it to map potholes, so a crew could get all of an area’s potholes at once.

In November, he began to use the same computer program to map and cluster tree-trimming and tree-removal requests.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

“The aldermen know we’re going in there and we know exactly where we’re going,” Byrne said. “We have a map and direct route on where the trees are at and how to trim ’em.”

His “blitz” technique deploys four tree-trimming crews in one area. Byrne said the blitzing now permits crews to trim 20 trees a day instead of 14.

The maps are based both on observation by city employees and by callers to the city’s 311 non-emergency line. Byrne said that in less than four months, use of the program has reduced the number of backlogged tree-trimming requests from 30,000 to 23,000, with a blitz taking place in each of the city’s 50 wards roughly twice a month.

He said it has worked so well that he will begin deploying graffiti-removal crews the same way, effective on Monday.

The goal of all three programs is the same — to coordinate deployment so that it is no longer necessary to dispatch crews repeatedly to the same area. Byrne said it saves on manpower, fuel and mechanical wear and addresses complaints more quickly.

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