Graphic courtesy of John Johnson

In December 1994, the City of Dallas created a 311 system. The Big D was the second city in the U.S. to implement a model to handle citizen service requests outside of 911 emergencies.

Is there a lot in your neighborhood overgrown with weeds? Is somebody blocking the alley? Did a dog meet his maker in the middle of the road?

Residents and businesses can notify the City of issues three ways—calling 311, logging online or using the mobile app. Attaching pictures with the request is encouraged.

Valerie Richmond was frustrated by construction traffic blocking the 6400 block of Kenwood Avenue on Aug. 6. She logged her complaint on the mobile app, along with a picture of the culprits. Early the next morning, compliance officers followed up with her and said by the time they arrived, the guilty parties had cleared the street. They gave her some suggestions on future requests.

“I was impressed how they responded,“ Richmond said.

John Johnson has been director of Dallas 311 since 2018.

“We have a team of 130 people, anywhere from 35-85 people fielding service requests 24/7,” Johnson said. “Most of our employees have six weeks of training before taking calls on their own.”

Lakewood Heights resident Tom Aubrey has an Airbnb across the street that gets out of hand occasionally.

“I‘ve used it several times,” Tom said. “At one time, I had the code compliance officer’s phone number, and I could text him when something was going on or the trash cans were in the street all week. That was helpful because he could run over that same day or the next and give them a citation.”

Johnson said 3,500 requests are logged each day, with an average of nearly 2.5 requests every minute.

“Mondays and the days after a holiday are our busiest days,” Johnson said. “We have 25 people working from home. We had a working-from-home model in place long before the pandemic.”

The top four types of requests are: code concerns like tall grass or graffiti; missed trash pickup; parking violations; and right-of-way obstruction. Of course there are oddball requests now and then. One resident found a snake in her home. Another wanted to know how many cups in a gallon. Sixteen, by the way.

Lisa Marshall, president of Friends of Tietze Park, says, “Every spring or summer there’s been tall grass, broken sprinklers, alley potholes or some little thing to contact them about. I am generally quite pleased with the response and followup by code inspectors.”

If you see something, say something. Call, log on or download the mobile app. Although not perfect, can’t let perfect get in the way of pretty good. Check it out.


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