Courtesy of city of Renton.

Courtesy of city of Renton.

A tool to reach the city in residents’ pockets

A new city-wide phone app will help generate nuisance reports

Renton has launched a new app for residents to connect with city staff: Renton Responds. For non-emergency services requests and quality-of-life issues, residents can snap a picture, fill out a form and submit it under an account, as a guest or anonymously. Those who create an account can receive status updates.

Users can report graffiti, traffic signal malfunctions, overgrown vegetation, potholes or abandoned vehicles with a few clicks on their mobile device or computer, according to a press release from the city. The submission then goes to the appropriate city department.

The app uses a photo to determine location, then ask questions for clarification. The app doesn’t take requests from outside city limits and alters the user if a similar problem was already submitted. Users can also see if requests are open, acknowledged or closed.

The online forms preceding this, Renton request forms, had problems, according to staff at the Sept. 16 Committee of the Whole briefing. The number of forms were confusing, didn’t integrate with city software, there was no way to gather analysis from the system and staff couldn’t easily contact the requester.

City departments have several employees trained to take in the requests and agreements to handle an increase in requests, staff said at the briefing.

Apps similar to Renton Responds have been used in surrounding cities, and some faced unique challenges. The Seattle Times reported in July the city of Seattle’s Find It, Fix It app, intended for similar services, was faced with an influx of fake alerts in response to an anonymous campaign for reporting homeless encampments.

The City of Renton invited six companies to come in before deciding on SeeClickFix, a company that also created applications for Covington, Auburn, Tukwila, Mercer Island, Sammamish and Shoreline. The communications staff at the city then changed the name to Renton Responds.

The application launched on Sept. 12, and already has users reporting graffiti, illegal dumping, streetlight concerns and more. Users can see the status of other requests, and submit their own, by downloading the app, available for Apple and Android devices.

Staff said those without a mobile device can still submit through a desktop, or those without a desktop or want to complete the form in another language can call the phone number available at the website at rentonwa.gov/rentonresponds.

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