One man standing at a podium at city hall with another off to the side
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan and Khaled Tawfik, chief information officer, speak about improvements to the city's 311 app on April 11, 2024. Photo by Jana Kadah.

San Jose is updating its 311 app that tracks resident complaints to more efficiently address thousands of requests about abandoned vehicles.

The 311 app is designed to be a one-stop shop for residents to report a variety of issues including blight, graffiti and potholes, or request other supportive services. Residents depend on the city to resolve issues pertaining to abandoned vehicles, but the city can’t always respond effectively or quickly enough to meet demand.

To address this, San Jose is revamping the way it takes requests to gather more information effectively, allow residents to report anonymously and enable them to track abandoned vehicle complaints.

“These complaints have been either sent to the wrong department of the city or passed around like a hot potato until they finally got to the right person, if they ever did,” Mayor Matt Mahan said. “Requests will now be routed to the department responsible for resolving the issue quicker than ever, meaning faster results and less frustration.”

Complaints around abandoned vehicles are the most common. There have been 6,202 complaints this year alone, of which 4,619 have been closed, but not necessarily resolved. Complaints include a variety of concerns such as non-operational vehicles parked on public streets, cars parked in one place for an excessive length of time, trash and sewage concerns tied to vehicles and expired registration beyond six months, among others.

San Jose surveys 311 users to track customer satisfaction. These are the results. Graph courtesy of San Jose.

Data as of April 11 shows the top three city districts with the most requests are District 3 with 1,181 requests, District 6 with 786 requests and District 7 with a total of 781 requests. About 75% of those complaints have been closed, according to Information Technology Department spokesperson Chelsea Palacio.

Some requests take months to complete. Of the nine most common complaints in the 311 app, the city’s response to abandoned vehicles has the lowest customer service satisfaction rating at 36%.

Khaled Tawfik, chief information officer for San Jose, said abandoned vehicle complaints are harder to resolve because they are more complex than issues like graffiti or a pothole. A stolen vehicle dumped in a random neighborhood requires a different triage response versus a broken down RV that someone lives in.

Originally, all abandoned vehicle complaints would go to the Transportation Department. The city has added several more detailed questions for residents to answer when using the 311 app to better understand how to respond.

Tawfik said the city doesn’t know what the most common type of complaint is regarding abandoned vehicles — whether it’s stolen, lived in, parked for too long or decaying.

“One of the challenges of the old system is that it captured everything in one bucket,” Tawfik said. “Because we don’t catch it from the (front end) to be accurate.”

The city is upgrading the 311 app to cross reference with the city’s list of stolen vehicles. San Jose is also adding a feature that allows residents to track a specific vehicle request that may be abandoned or stolen, even if they were not the initial requester — an addition Mahan is particularly excited about.

The mayor said the 311 app is best way to ensure abandoned vehicle concerns are addressed, as opposed to contacting city departments or councilmembers. Spanish and Vietnamese language options are coming soon to the vehicle feature. The public can also dial 3-1-1 from a landline or mobile phone within city limits to report non-emergency concerns.

“The big part of this is about how we better serve the community,” Mahan said. “It erodes trust in government, when people request and report a problem, and the city can’t give them a clear answer or closes their request… and that has happened too often in the past.”

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

Leave a Reply