Beaufort neighbor got weeds? There's an app for that

emoody@beaufortgazette.comOctober 11, 2013 

An example screen is shown in the Government Outreach code violation reporting app for smartphones.

GOVERNMENT OUTREACH

Is the neighbor's grass overgrown? Or is their trash scattered on the ground?

Take a picture.

SafeBuilt, the city of Beaufort's code-enforcement contractor, is starting to use a smartphone app that will allow residents to quickly and anonymously report violations, according to enforcement officer Dawn Boren.

The Government Outreach app is free and available for Android and iPhone systems. Users can file a complaint and attach photos and descriptions of the problems.

"Having the photograph is helpful, because people can over- or underplay the magnitude of the violation," planning director Libby Anderson said.

The program uses GPS to pinpoint the violation's location, Boren said as she tapped through the app on her phone to demonstrate how to file a report.

"It really opens up another avenue of communication between the citizens and the city," she said.

The app emails reports of violations to Boren. It also tracks those violations and can produce reports.

People can check the status of reports they've made on the app, which will indicate whether the case is closed, Boren said.

If residents include contact information, Boren might contact them, but that information will remain confidential, she said.

"No one besides me will know I received it," she said.

The bulk of code violations Boren deals with are overgrown lots, although in the past, rubbish has been a more prevalent problem, according to town statistics.

Between January and August, there were 85 reports of overgrown lots, 20 property-maintenance problems and 12 garbage issues. A few violations for signs, unlicensed vehicles and zoning problems also were handled by the department.

The number of violations, however, is dropping, Anderson said, because more people are aware of the rules.

"Once we get people used to it, a lot of people start doing it right," Anderson said.

Most code problems are spotted by Boren or other city employees, but some residents alert her to violations, usually by phone or email.

"I'm just one person, but luckily we all work together," she said.

Boren plans to discuss the app during the monthly all-city, neighborhood meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 1911 Boundary St.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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