iPhone app helps report urban blight

October 1, 2009 8:26:24 AM PDT
There's a new iPhone app that puts city hall at your fingertips when you want to report a problem in your neighborhood, like potholes, graffiti or blight. It's being tested right now in San Jose, and could one day be used all over the Bay Area and the country.

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Where's the complaint box, when your street looks like a jigsaw puzzle, and your car's shocks are taking a world-class beating. Who do you call, when graffiti taggers hit your neighborhood -- again? Soon, the answer may be as close as your iPhone.

"You click report an issue and that will then launch the iPhone phone application," said San Jose City Councilman Pete Constant.

Constant is among the first public officials in the country testing a new iPhone application from a company that calls itself CitySourced. It allows a user to chronicle almost any quality of life complaint and ship the info and a picture off to city hall for fixing.

Here is a demonstration:

"You're walking down the street, you're driving down the street, whatever the case may be and you see something whether it's a pothole, graffiti, some other blighted situation. You stop for a second, launch your iPhone app, take a photo, answer two short questions and hit send," said Constant.

The picture and GPS location end up in a computer at city hall, in this case Pete Constant's office, where he can forward the complaint on to public works, anti-graffiti task force or whomever.

"Our office will be able to track in real time where the complaints are coming throughout the district, we can see trends," said Constant.

"We believe with our metrics based reporting software we can identify, predict and prevent instances of urban blight. So if we notice trends such as graffiti of the same tagger popping up, our software will alert the city to let them know that a trend is occurring and to pay closer attention to it," said Dave Kralik from CitySourced.

And that makes it more than just a nuisance reporting service.

"We know when graffiti increases, gang violence increases shortly thereafter. I think it's going to be just a steady flow of information so that we can deal with things without small problems becoming big problems," said Constant.

CitySourced is also working on modifying the app to work on Blackberries and other smart phones by the end of the year.

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