San Diego Expands Popular City Service Reporting App

Initially created in 2016 to allow reports of potholes, graffiti and abandoned vehicles, the app is now taking reports of illegal encampments and began allowing residents to purchase replacement trash cans.

by David Garrick, The San Diego Union-Tribune / February 6, 2020
San Diego, Calif. Shutterstock/View Apart

(TNS) — San Diego's popular smartphone tipster app Get it Done! is expanding the kinds of complaints people can report, as usage of the app continues to increase.

Initially created in 2016 to allow reports of potholes, graffiti and abandoned vehicles, the app recently started taking reports of illegal encampments and began allowing residents to purchase replacement trash cans.

Later this month, the app will begin allowing reports of illegal activity involving electric scooters. And later this year, city officials say they will launch a Spanish version to boost reporting in areas of San Diego where residents prefer that language.

City officials told the City Council's Rules Committee Wednesday that future expansions will mostly likely focus on complaints related to parks, such as broken water fountains and the presence of dogs without leashes.

Plans to hire outside consultants to help with future expansion opportunities are scheduled to be presented to the Rules Committee this spring.

Use of the app has sharply increased over time. The number of complaints climbed from 45,000 in 2016 to 144,000 in 2017, then to 201,000 in 2018 and 362,000 in 2019 — or nearly 1,000 per day.

The app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times. City officials estimate there are 12,500 active users each month.

As the types of complaints on the site have increased, city officials also have made adjustments that allow them to give residents more detailed feedback about how the city resolved the problems they reported.

For example, people who report graffiti now get sent an "after" picture of the site where they reported the tagging.

Another innovation under review is allowing residents to cancel a complaint, such as when they report an abandoned vehicle and then notice the car has been moved before the city responded to the complaint.

Abandoned cars continue to be the top type of the 52 types of complaints that the Get it Done! app can process, with about 45,000 complaints per year. After that, the next most popular complaints are illegal dumping and graffiti.

Other top complaints, ranked in order, are missed trash collections, potholes, parking violations, sidewalk repairs and broken streetlights.

Other complaints that can be reported include illegal garage conversions, fence violations, mold, substandard housing, illegal construction and abandoned properties.

The ability to report illegal encampments, which was launched in December, has already drawn more than 1,400 reports, city officials said.

The encampments were previously reported under illegal dumping, sidewalk nuisance or "other," so allowing them to be reported more specifically has streamlined a cumbersome routing process.

The option to buy a replacement trash container, which was launched last May, has been utilized to buy more than 11,000 containers. Allowing city staff to avoid processing such purchases has saved 150 worker hours, city officials said.

Residents with trash cans under warranty can also get replacement parts, such as wheels and lids, through Get it Done!

Council members said they were disappointed by the average response times to some types of complaints, particularly abandoned vehicles, which takes an average of more than 23 days.

City staff said they hope to begin analyzing response times to see where improvements can be made.

Councilman Chris Ward said such an analysis, combined with data already being collected, could help with city budget decisions.

"Where are we lagging behind?" he said. "Where do we need additional resources?"

Council President Georgette Gomez praised the creation of a Spanish version of the app.

City staff said the app will automatically be in Spanish if the user has opted for that language in the settings of their smartphone.

Gomez said she'd also like to see an analysis showing Get it Done! complaints by council district. That would allow officials to see whether the app is being used equally across the city, and to determine which neighborhoods struggle with which problems most frequently.

©2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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