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App used in City of Canton puts power in the hands of citizens for reporting and tracking problems

Posted: 6:49 AM, Apr 09, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-10 03:55:42Z

Our ongoing 5 On Your Side Investigation "Broken Roads, Broken System " is constantly looking for new tools in the fight to keep your streets in better shape. What we've found now, not only could help address road issues, but take a bigger look at what's happening in neighborhoods.

"Each and every morning when we arrive, there'll be new emails in our inbox,” said JR Rinaldi who works in the Canton Mayor's Office. "It's changing the evolution of Canton."

The "it" is something called SeeClickFix. It's an app the city has paid for that allows you to see a problem in Canton, click a picture of it, and send it to city hall to get the issue fixed. The app also allows you to track any complaint in the city posted through the app.

"This is the lifeblood of what we're doing,” said Rinaldi. “The health department, the building department…police department, abandoned vehicles and whatnot."

Oh, and the potholes...the many potholes. "Our Street Superintendent Steve Trzcinski, he wants you to use SeeClickFix,” Rinaldi told us. 

When you send that picture and fill out the category of the problem, where it is and so forth, Rinaldi said the city logs all complaints then answers each with an email that the city is aware of the problem. You can then track the progress of your complaint.

"I had this a-ha moment," said SeeClickFix CEO & Founder Ben Berkowitz. He said came up with the SeeClickFix idea 10 years ago when he had a problem with graffiti near his home. "The solution to this problem might look like a transparent conversation between me and my neighbors and the city,” he said recalling his thoughts.

10 years later, it's a company serving 330 clients and municipalities including Canton, Toledo, and a couple others in Ohio. "It creates a culture change, pretty quickly in communities where it's been deployed,” said Berkowitz. 

Municipalities that are tired of what can be expensive 311 systems with all of the overhead to report fixable issues are turning to the app to help be more efficient.

“SeeClickFix costs Canton around $8700 a year,” said Rinaldi. “And if you look at 311 systems when you would have to staff them and do all that, it's over 200,000 some dollars."

As part of our investigation "Broken Roads, Broken System," we told you about the city of Cleveland just recently starting to use something called Cityworks. It’s a program the mayor's office said will help keep better track of complaints of potholes and other areas.
Cleveland still has 3-1-1.

"If you look at a place like Detroit,” said Berkowitz, “it is also (using) the software that replaces the old 311 system."

Berkowitz also told us the price for using the app depends on the size of the municipality. The average is about $12,000 per year.