A new Facebook application is making it easier for citizens to report problems and request services from local governments.
Called the Citizen Request Tracker (CRT), the app can be downloaded from Facebook, installed onto a person’s account and then used to contact the city or county about items such as pot holes, graffiti, barking dogs and malfunctioning streetlights.
Designed by CivicPlus, a website developer that specializes in local government, the app keeps track of the entire history of citizen requests, responses and all follow-up communication. The app is currently in use by Burleson, Texas, and is being readied for launch in various other communities nationwide, including League City, Texas, and Lake Oswego, Ore.
Sally Ellertson, public information officer of Burleson, revealed that since the city launched its new website last year — which also included the ability to report issues to the city online — in combination with the CRT app and an iPhone version of the CRT app the city uses, she’s seen a big uptick in the amount of citizens contacting Burleson with requests, ranging from code enforcement incidents to animal services.
Ellertson said that while the Facebook CRT app has only been in use since June 14, she thinks it’ll bolster Burleson’s accountability to the community and help keep communication lines open.
“With our CRT tracking, there is always a response, and always a time frame to get their questions answered,” Ellertson said of citizen requests. “It’s a great way for them to track when they submitted [a request] and what responses they get.
“It's good for us too, because it shows we contacted the citizen,” she added. “[It’s] two-way communication that keeps us both in check.”
CivicPlus representatives commented that in time, the app could also likely decrease phone and foot traffic to city departments, which will help simplify workflow and make staff members more efficient. The CRT app is free to download, and comes at no charge for customers of the company.
“The idea behind our Citizen Request Tracker Suite was to make local government more accessible to the modern tech-savvy citizens who use social media sites and mobile devices in their daily lives,” said Ward Morgan, CEO of CivicPlus, in a statement.
Kristi Wyatt, director of communications and media relations for League City, Texas, said the city is planning on rolling out the CRT Facebook app by early August. And while she’s not sure there will be a “significant” increase in requests, given the amount of time people spend on social media networks, making the app available to residents was a no-brainer.
Wyatt recalled that when moderating activity on League City’s Facebook page, there have been multiple times that someone would mention something such as a pothole being a problem when discussing a route to a city event. In the past, Wyatt would have to address that concern personally, calling, e-mailing or private messaging the person to direct them to the right department.
But she expects things will get more streamlined once the CRT Facebook app is installed.
“People don’t always want to pick up the phone and try and reach the right person [with a complaint],” Wyatt said. “But they are always on social media, so it is a quick and easy way for them to send us information to help us better their lives and the city.”
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.