On January 31, 2002, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the creation of the 3-1-1 system as a means of “ending the frustrating bureaucracy New Yorkers encounter when they need help.” Fourteen months later on March 9, 2003 the 3-1-1 Customer Service Center was launched.
On Wednesday, June 20, Bloomberg and Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) Commissioner Paul J. Cosgrove announced that the call center handled its 50 millionth call at exactly 9:55 a.m.
Instituting 3-1-1 is arguably the mayor’s most sweeping change to city government. It consolidated nearly 40 call centers from 17 different city agencies into a streamlined, centralized operation while providing callers tracking numbers for complaints.
It freed up the burden of complaint calls that were placed to 9-1-1 by mistake or out of frustration by allowing residents to call in non-emergency complaints 24-hours-a-day. Additionally, the system can deal with the diversity of the city and especially Queens by handling over 170 languages by using a translation service.
Most people who call 3-1-1 call to complain - about heat and hot water, noise, landlord issues, parking and tickets, garbage pickups, etc.
In addition to just addressing complaints, 3-1-1 has served to help disseminate free nicotine patches and to inform homeowners about their $400 property tax rebate.
The real potential of the 3-1-1 system is in the gargantuan amount of data it has accumulated over its years of operation. In May 2005, Bloomberg signed a law, which amended the 3-1-1 charter to require the operating agency, the DoITT, to provide monthly reports of all calls to the city’s 59 Community Boards, the Public Advocate and the City Council.
Those reports are still “a work in progress,” according to many unsatisfied Community Board members in Queens.
Nonetheless, the operators at 3-1-1 call center handle 40,000 calls a day and soon may be able to log digital images and video to support verbal descriptions of incidents or of other complaints.
So for right now, what are the top ten complaints or issues that Queens residents reported to the 3-1-1 system in 2006?
We hope that the DoITT can rapidly resolve the issues they have with providing their data to our Community Boards in Queens in a useable form and in a timely fashion before they move on to the photo and video phase.