App touted as tool to keep city clean, safe

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People today use smartphones to check the weather and stock market, to connect with friends through email, texting or social media, and occasionally to place a call. Now, they can use their smartphone to help keep the City of Beaufort clean, safe and attractive.

SafeBuilt, the company that handles codes enforcement for Beaufort, is promoting use of a smartphone application called Government Outreach. The app lets people share their concerns or complaints about possible code violations, including photos and GPS coordinates, directly from their phone.

“This is not spying on your neighbors. It is being a concerned citizen,” said Libby Anderson, director of planning for Beaufort.

For years, Beaufort’s residents and visitors have reported their concerns about overgrown lots, abandoned homes and vehicles, and suspicious behavior. Some of these concerns are tackled by the Police Department while others go to Codes Enforcement. In the past, these complaints were shared by telephone, letter or in person at City Hall.

The Government Outreach application is available for Android and iPhone smartphones. The app lets people remain anonymous or share their contact information with the city.

No action is taken by the city or its Codes Enforcement team based only on the complaint or concern. The information is investigated, just as it would be if a Codes Enforcement officer saw the problem during a routine drive, Anderson said.

The city encourages people to provide their contact information for follow-up as needed; however, similar to people calling in anonymous tips about crime, neighbors may prefer to remain confidential in their tips about possible code violations. Again, no action is taken simply on the basis of a complaint or concern being shared with the city either through the smartphone app or by other means. An investigation and review of the problem is conducted prior to any citations or other actions, City Manager Scott Dadson said.

“We are simply providing one more way for people to tell us if they see a problem we need to know about,” Dadson said. “For years and years people have called us, written letters or talked to the city manager or mayor when they thought there was a problem that needed looking into — now we simply add to that the use of smartphone technology.”