2003-03-13 / Top Stories

311 Hotline Replaces Quality-Of-Life Number

By Neil S. Friedman

By Neil S. Friedman

After a two-month delay, the citywide 311 non-emergency hotline has been operating — albeit not at full capacity — for nearly two weeks. This system replaces the quality-of-life hotline, which had been used for several years to register nuisance calls.

"After a couple of false starts it went into service on March 1," Cap-tain Robert Johnsen (pictured at right), commanding officer of the 69th Precinct, told the Canarsie Courier this week. "Though some of the kinks are still being refined and some cobwebs still have to be shaken out, it is up and running."

In outlining the system last year, Mayor Bloomberg said, "The 311 phone system will end the frustrating bureau-cracy New Yorkers encounter when they need help…It will allow citizens to obtain important non-emergency services through one central, all-purpose phone number quickly and ef-fectively."

Originally scheduled to begin Jan-uary 1, Capt. Johnsen said there were too many glitches so it was delayed until February 1, which came and went with continuing problems. The system is in service but, according to a city government spokesperson, it is being established with a "multi-phased approach."

Callers who dial 311, which should be used only in non-emergency situations, will reach the Public Safety Answering Center located in Metro Tech Center, downtown Brooklyn. After the call is retrieved and registered the call will then be dispatched to the police precinct from which it came. After determining whether or not it is a police matter, i.e. a noise complaint or blocked driveway, the call will be handled according to priority.

Captain Johnsen explained that local precincts will still take quality-of-life type calls directly, but 311 is also readily available. Johnsen said that aside from noise complaints, such as barking dogs, loud music from cars or parties, that will be handled by the police, callers may be able to receive travel directions, request tree pruning, inquire about street repairs, make sanitation complaints and get contact numbers for any city agency.

The 69th precinct commander said that all 311 calls would be integrated into the same CompStat system, which stores the NYPD’s statistical information that has been critical in reducing the city’s crime rate over the last decade by targeting specific high crime areas. All agencies receiving and responding to 311 calls are required to update local pre-cincts in order to keep precise records.

The Canarsie Courier sampled the system seeking information for this article. After a brief introductory recorded announcement that reminds emergency callers to dial 911, the call was answered by an operator and efficiently responded to within 15 seconds.

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