Calgary graffiti reporting up thanks to tweaks in 311 system

The City of Calgary is noticing a rampant game of tag when it comes to reporting graffiti, and representatives from 311 think three key factors are helping clean up crews scrub away public scribbles faster.

A heat map provided by the city shows a fifty per cent rise in graffiti service requests with the city’s centre being a hot zone, and branching out along transit lines to each of the city’s quadrants. And it’s largely thanks to a trifecta of proactive cataloguing “cleanup approach,” the introduction of a graffiti-specific option on their app menu, and an individual previously reported on by Metro: Dr G.

Calgary’s 311 manager Clarke Bellamy said the app began including graffiti in March 2014. Out of their 2014 service requests on the app, graffiti took second place with over 3,400 requests out of 23,336. Out of all graffiti requests about 23 per cent came in through the app and five per cent came in on the web, which doesn’t include e-mails.

“The app allows citizens not just to describe the graffiti, but to take a photo,” Bellamy said. “We have seen a significant increase in adoption [for the app].”

He also mentioned the crews on the field ridding the streets of graffiti with suds and scrubs have a mandate to catalogue any unreported “art” they find on the job. This is giving the city and Calgary Police Service a database of information including photos and geolocations to help charge individuals and keep track of “problem areas” or any growth in the city’s graffiti catalogue.

“They recorded 2,624 service requests last year … in 2013 they proactively generated 731 service requests,” Bellamy said. “If they’re there on the field to clean up the graffiti on the street, well maybe they’re going to clean it up on another city asset at the same time.”

Some of the more noticeable graffiti spots in the city are also along the LRT lines, where Brian Whitelaw, coordinator of public safety and enforcement for Calgary Transit, said they are also taking a proactive approach. He said trains are virtually clear of graffiti and contract agencies clean the mess right away, so patrons don’t see it.

“We’re very efficient at cleaning it,” Whitelaw said. “It doesn’t stay on the system long enough to draw attention from folks.”

Most of the requests through transit come from property that back along the lines, something Whitelaw said bylaw is trying to deal with.

New to the app:

In May the 311 app will include a number of new menu options for service requests including: long grass along major roadway, long grass on private property among other grass concerns and parks irrigation concerns.

By: Helen Pike – Metro

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