Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, in conjunction with the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods and Constituent Services, launched Wednesday the "311 Community Challenge" to help strengthen confidence in the 311 system among residents, community leaders and stakeholders.

The 311 Community Challenge encourages participating communities to call 311 with service requests on designated issues such as graffiti, debris on wires, potholes, faded signs, street light repair and similar issues. Baltimore's 311 system began in 2002 and today has become a key component in the City's Cleaner Baltimore Initiative in which residents are encouraged to report items such as overflowing trash cans and poor service with their trash removal.

"We want to make positive changes in the city of Baltimore," said Dixon, "but we cannot do it alone. We need the citizens of Baltimore to be our eyes and ears in the communities. 311 is an efficient tool for citizens to report problems in their communities."

At the end of each month of the Challenge, the number of service requests called in by each community association will be tallied and the nine districts (by police district) that have placed the most 311 calls will win the challenge for that period. One citywide winner will be selected as well. District winners will receive a Mayoral Citation and citywide winners will receive a congratulatory letter and plaque from Mayor Dixon.

"During each challenge period we will identify up to four types of service requests for community associations to report," explained Cliff Sawyer, Associate Director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods. "The categories of service requests designated for the first challenge period, August 1-15, include graffiti, potholes and faded signs."

Interested community groups must obtain a Community Group ID Number from the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods. Baltimore City's 311 One Call Center is staffed with up to 75 agents, 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week and can handle up to 5,000 calls a day.