311 API for Mobile Reporting

December 19, 2019 by Brian Aylward

311 API for Mobile Reporting

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, residents experienced frustration with a web-based reporting system for non-emergency issues, such as pot holes or graffiti in public spaces. The system, which routed a resident's message to the appropriate staff member for manual review, routing and response, lacked incident tracking, reporting capabilities and response time measures. Neither did it integrate with the existing work order system or provide notifications. City staff found manual follow-up on the status of submitted incidents to be onerous and time consuming.

According to Todd Selle, business systems analyst for the city, "the website system didn't allow us to track the incidents or measure response times. We had no visibility into open requests, no systematic way of notifying residents of the status of their reported issues, and no integration with the system we used to manage workflow."

Mobile 311

To combat these challenges and enhance public service, Las Cruces used an Open 311 Web Service API to connect to its existing mobile app in a custom 311 interface. This allowed the city to minimize deployment of apps and keep them centralized and developed in-house for branding purposes.

To implement the new 311 program, the city established a team of business system analysts, the community outreach manager and IT professionals to strategically plan the system's setup. The team defined tasks required to fully document, route, and complete each incident type in the identified framework. "We spent significant time defining our incident types and workflow," Selle explained. "It's worth the upfront investment of time because those settings form the foundation of a successful service request process."

Real-Time Insight

Residents can use the app to report issues in real time and receive updates on the city's progress in addressing their requests. The system provides the public as well as they city with enhanced visibility into submitted incidents in real time on a dashboard, a web portal, and the city's app.

Because the 311 system integrated with the city's existing work order management software, resident requests can be tagged to automatically convert to new or existing work orders in one connected system. Resident communications are documented in the app, allowing staff to review and analyze how well issues are being resolved, particularly with persistent problems.

The city now has metrics to evaluate and benchmark appropriate response times for each incident type and can isolate the incident types that are underutilized. In addition to seeing an increase in the number of issues reported, the city has also gained visibility into who is reporting. Gaining new visibility into engaged community participants facilitates a government-resident connection and can, in the future, lead to new partnerships or programs.

"In the seven months since the city went live, we've seen citizen engagement increase fourfold," Selle noted. "We're now fielding about 260 requests per month, up from 60, because it's easier for residents to report their concerns. The increase in requests hasn’t been a problem for us because it's easier for us to manage them."

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