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What is 311?
WHAT IS 311?
311 is a toll-free number reserved nationwide since 1997 for non-emergency calls to police and other government offices. Baltimore, Maryland was the first city to implement this system in 1996. Within two months of operation, 42% of 911 calls went to 311, lessening emergency-response times.
Since 1997, many cities and counties have adopted 311 call centers, allowing residents to register quality of life complaints and concerns. As part of its’ community-policing efforts, the Department of Justice has allocated over $5 million to help launch this system around the country.
311 centers usually operate 24 hours a day, taking requests for services only within their designated jurisdiction. When residents attempt to resolve an issue, their inquiry may be transferred several times before it reaches the appropriate department. Viewed as a customer service improvement strategy, operators within the operation handle the intake of citizen concerns and electronically route service requests to the appropriate city departments.
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A 311 SYSTEM?
Non emergency 311 call systems can greatly reduce the 911 burden placed upon the local police department. As residents look for three components when they have a question or problem- one easy number to remember, to be helped by the first person they talked to, and 24 hour access- a 311 system provide a single point of contact, providing governments with the ability to improve city services.
311 serves as an important public safety role, steering non-emergency calls away from 911, preserving the availability of the emergency system for callers truly in need of immediate attention. With the designation of a single number, it provides a centralized mechanism for assisting citizens while making city government more responsive and efficient.
The 311 system is deemed a very valuable tool for municipalities in the case of emergencies, such as hurricanes or winter storms.