311: Departments with the most reports and how reports are prioritized

The city's non-emergency 311 takes thousands of calls every year.

The number launched in 2011 with a primary focus on alleviating a mass amount of calls to various city departments, utilize a tracking system to log reports and also ensure non-emergency numbers aren't going to 911.

There are 42 dispatchers who help answer questions and concerns for more than 20 city departments 7 days a week between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. including holidays.

Gethsemani Atilano, 311's project leader, told KFOX14, the phones never stop ringing.

"We're the link from the public and to the departments and we receive about 520,000 calls a year. Through the year we have our peaks usually around the summer. May starts increasing and then back down in September and November," she said.

After reviewing data requested on call volume, we found the line has consistently taken more than 500,000 calls every year for the past five years. Up to date, 311 had received 140,410 calls.

Calls and reports are categorized and directed to different city departments if necessary. The departments with the most calls on average over the years include the Police Non-Emergency line, Environmental Services and Animal Services.

Atilano said every single call and report is logged, but there's mixed reviews from the residents who’ve made reports and utilized the number.

Enrique Gonzalez, who lives in the lower valley, told KFOX14 he did not receive a response from Environmental Services after making a report through the service.

"I called on a Thursday, the weekend passed and I received no call back like they said so I called back Monday. They told me a supervisor was supposed to have contacted me to make arraignments to come pick up the trash or the mess they made and nope, they never called me," he said.

Gonzales said a dump truck knocked over his trash cans during pick up, scattering trash on the street, and while he had no problem with making report the response on behalf of the department which should have handled the complaint was disappointing.

"I had to clean up their mess which I felt it was their mess since they dropped the trash onto a city street it didn't land on my property. Needless to say, the service is there but there were no results that came out of it," he said.

Other callers have had a positive experience, like Peter Oprinel who lives in central El Paso. He told KFOX14 311 was very efficient in helping him when winds broke his trash bins and he needed replacements.

"Experience overall considering we're a big town, I thought the response wouldn't be so fast, but it was. Two days later a response when on a Saturday I called in they answered and Monday at 11:30 they were here delivering that can. The women who took my report was nice and so was the gentleman who delivered the new trash can. I hope everyone has the same experience I did," said Oprinel.

Taking a closer look into how departments track these reports and the response time, KFOX14 found that while all reports are logged, every department has its own protocol on prioritizing response on a case by case basis.

Atilano said although response may not always be quick, there should be no unanswered calls as every department can see every report that's logged.

"Every single department has its own system so our agents actually have access. We have access to their systems so whatever the complaint, maybe we key it in and submit it and at the end of the call they should be offering a confirmation number. Now it's up to the citizen whether they take it or don't and follow up on the report," she said adding that while callers can remain anonymous it can make it difficult to update them or contact them if further information is needed to respond and close their case.

City leaders said call data and reports are reviewed by department heads in a monthly meeting and have helped to not only identify trends but shift resources.

Ramon Herrera, spokesman for the El Paso Animal Services, shared how it's impacted their department.

"We prioritize our calls, when you're looking at 39,000 calls across the city, priority will be highly vicious calls those dogs that maybe lose chasing people. Vicious bites that caused injury, animals left in hot vehicles concern of health and safety. We look at are we really seeing so many calls in the evening shift, the overnight shift or are we really seeing more midday that way that allows us to start looking at schedules and looking at resources to shift them if necessary," he said.

Reports of stray animals are considered priority 2 and are 45% of the animal services calls made to 311. Herrera said although response may not be quick, these calls aren't ignored and added callers can aid by giving as much detail about the animal, location and direction to better assist officers in locating strays.

"What the public should know, the good thing about 311, is that concern is logged, it's not lost. It's logged as soon as it comes in it pops up on the screen as priority to our officers in the field and depending on what they have going on in their area they'll respond as quickly as possible," said Herrera,

He also said if a caller isn't happy with response time or had an issue, to call back and speak to the department their report was directed to.

Making reports to 311 and following up on them could also be easier now that a mobile app is also available.

311 launched the application April 30 and it allows reporters to not only make a report through their mobile phone but online through a computer.

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