Got an issue? Text the city

Glendale News Press

CITY HALL — Glendale residents will soon be able to snap pictures of graffiti, potholes and other issues with their cell phones and send them to city officials through a new city program.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a three-year, $26,260 contract with Freedom Speaks Inc. to set up and support a smart-phone application that lets residents notify city officials of civic blights.

Photos will be transmitted to officials in the city's Neighborhood Services division with a text message and geographic location. City officials can also notify senders when the request has been received as well as when it has been remedied.

"It's such an easy way in which people can bring things to the city's attention," said Information Services Director Edward Fraga.

Neighborhood Services Administrator Sam Engel, whose division will field the requests, said the city currently receives about 400 to 500 requests monthly through the "contact us" option on the city's website, with many sent via smart phones.

The new application will build on that concept.

"We said, 'let's look into this, this is the wave of the future," he said. "People are going to want to do this, we need to be a little ahead of this if we can."

Fraga said that while there are several websites that offer similar services for free, only Freedom Speaks' application will work directly with the city's customer service system.

Officials will work with the company implementing the program in the next few months, with extensive outreach notifying residents of the application planned later this year.

Glendale would be the second city in the country to use the application, which was first implemented in San Jose. The city of Los Angeles is also working on a pilot program. It has received significant attention in the technology world since placing in the top four firms for the "Best in Show" award at a Silicon Valley technology conference last year.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, City Manager Jim Starbird said the program is one of the ways city officials are attempting to make it easier for residents to reach out to City Hall.

The City Council in March authorized the creation of a 24-hour city access telephone number through which residents could report issues.

Calls to the line made during city hours would be routed to the appropriate department, while calls made outside of normal operating hours would be routed to the public works maintenance yard or Glendale Water & Power's call center for dispatch and response.

The cell phone application is another way residents can use, he said.

"It really is a tremendous use of technology," he said. "One I think we'll see more and more in the city."

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